Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi. FileMinister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi. File   | Photo Credit:

WCD ministry has suggested changes

The Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to examine sexual harassment at the workplace may consider amending the law against sexual harassment at workplaces, according to government sources.

The GoM headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh is likely to meet soon, said a senior Home ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The spokesperson of the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry said that with campaigning for Assembly elections in five states drawing to an end, members of the GoM would now be able to meet.

The WCD ministry has shared with the Home ministry a meeting agenda, which includes changes to the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, sources in the WCD ministry said.

“The agenda mentions lacunae in the law as well as suggests ways to improve it,” said a senior WCD ministry official, who did not wish to be identified. He added that the guiding principles for making the amendments would be the Vishaka guidelines.

The GoM includes Minister for Road Transport and Shipping Nitin Gadkari, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi.

Vishaka guidelines

The Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in 1997 lays the onus on the employer to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassment, apart from “providing resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment.”

The Act lays down the duties of an employer: ensuring a safe working place, displaying penal consequences of sexual harassment, creating awareness, as well as facilitating an internal probe. The employer is liable to pay a fine of ₹50,000 if he fails to comply with the inquiry report submitted by an internal complaints committee or doesn’t report the number of cases in the annual report.

The Justice J. S. Verma panel had recommended an employment tribunal instead of an internal committee to probe complaints.