Sexual Harassment Committee should be set up in Ministries and Government Departments, SC directs Central and State Governments


New Delhi : Central and state governments will have to set up sexual harassment committees in ministries and government departments. The Supreme Court has issued instructions regarding this on Friday. The Supreme Court on Friday directed the central and state governments to examine in a time-bound manner whether sexual harassment committees have been constituted in all ministries and departments. The Supreme Court said that there are serious lapses in the implementation of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act (PoSH) of 2013.

Committee should be formed in ministries and government departments

A bench of Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Hima Kohli said that an improperly constituted sexual harassment committee would be a hindrance in conducting an inquiry at the workplace. The Supreme Court said that it would be pointless to have an improperly constituted committee conduct a half-baked inquiry, which could have serious consequences like imposing heavy penalties on the employee concerned. The court said that the Union of India, all State Governments and Union Territories are directed to undertake a time-bound exercise to verify that all concerned Ministries, Departments, Government Organizations, Authorities, Public Sector Undertakings, Institutions, Bodies etc. Committees should be formed and the composition of the said committees should be strictly in accordance with the provisions of the POSH Act.

Important information available on websites

The bench said that it must be ensured that necessary information with regard to constitution and composition of committees, details of e-mail IDs and contact numbers of designated persons, procedure laid down for online complaint submission, as well as relevant rules, regulations and Internal policies should be easily available on the website of the concerned authority, executive, organization, institution, body. The bench said that the information presented should also be updated from time to time.

Petition of the former head of the department of Goa University

The apex court’s direction came during the hearing of a petition by Aureliano Fernandes, former Head of Department, Goa University, who challenged the Bombay High Court’s order regarding sexual harassment allegations against him. His petition against the order of the Executive Council of Goa University (Disciplinary Authority) was dismissed by the High Court. The council dismissed him from service and declared him unfit for future employment.

Order to submit report within eight months

The Supreme Court set aside the order of the High Court keeping in view the procedural lapses in the investigation proceedings and violation of the principles of natural justice. The court directed the Center and all states and union territories to file their affidavits to report compliance within eight weeks. Issuing the guidelines, the court said that all statutory bodies of professionals (doctors, lawyers, architects, chartered accountants, engineers, bankers and other professionals), universities, colleges, training centers and educational institutions and government and private institutions at the apex level and state level To be done by the hospitals/nursing homes also.

SIT constituted to probe sexual harassment allegations against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh

A copy of the decision will be sent to the central and state governments

The bench also directed that a copy of the judgment be communicated to the chief secretaries of all states and union territories, who shall ensure strict compliance of these directions in all concerned matters. The bench further said that it would be the responsibility of the Secretaries of the Ministries of the Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of each State and Union Territory to ensure the implementation of the directions issued.

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