The primary goal of Internal Committee (IC) members is the speedy resolution of sexual harassment cases. However, there are often scenarios where the proceedings may get delayed, leading to the complainant feeling worried about being targeted by the accused, or fearing the lack of confidentiality. This is why it becomes important for IC members to provide relief measures to the complainant not just at the end of the inquiry or investigation, but also during the pendency of proceedings. These are termed interim measures.
Under Section 12(1) of the POSH Act, in the event that a complainant makes a request to the IC, the IC has the power to recommend interim measures to an employer to protect the complainant, during an inquiry, investigation, or legal proceeding.
For example, an employee may have submitted a complaint concerning sexual advances towards her by her immediate boss. While the complaint is submitted and the IC looks into the matter, the employee may be uncomfortable working with the same boss until the IC decides how to deal with the case. Therefore, in such a case, the complainant has the right to request the IC to grant interim relief while the case is being investigated. In this case, she may request the IC to transfer her to work under a different boss or team or grant her leave till such time that the investigation draws to a close.
The IC is required to inform the complainant of her rights under the POSH Act, including the right to submit a written request regarding interim relief, if she so requires. According to the POSH Act, the IC has the power to undertake the following measures –
The IC also has the power to recommend the following to the employer –
Several cases have come to the fore where it has been argued whether or not the IC has the power to ask the employer to suspend the respondent or ask the respondent to go on leave instead of the complainant, to provide a safe working environment for the rest of the workplace.
In the case of Ms. Pi and Ors. vs. Jawaharlal Nehru University and Ors, the Delhi High Court held that separate supervisors could be appointed for both the complainant and the respondent and that they could be given separate labs/office spaces to carry out their work. While the court was of the view that the respondent should refrain from interfering or interacting with the complainant, it did not suspend the respondent during the pendency of proceedings.
SHLC Training for IC Members
At SHLC, we are cognizant of the challenges that IC members face, not just in understanding and investigating an inquiry, but also in deciding how to deal with the complainant and the respondent during the pendency of an inquiry. It is the responsibility of the IC to provide direction to the employer. This helps ensure the protection of both parties involved in the case and provides a safe working environment for the rest of the employees. Regular training helps IC members stay updated about the latest laws, cases, and amendments, and this helps them deal not just with various types of complaints, but also with developing empathy and maintaining an unbiased attitude towards the complainants.
Do you have a POSH query that you need help with? Reach out to us on email@example.com and our team will assist you.
Note – This article is not a substitute for legal advice or consultation with a lawyer, who will be in a better position to advise you with respect to the facts and circumstances of your case, but merely a tool to help the reader better understand laws relating to prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace.