Sexual harassment victims allowed three months paid leave: Government

New Delhi: A complainant in sexual harassment case will be allowed three months paid leave and she or the charged government employee can be transferred to other department during the inquiry, according to a fresh set of strict instructions by the Centre in such cases.

The disciplinary authority has been directed not to dispense with the inquiry in complaints of sexual harassment lightly, arbitrarily or with ulterior motive or merely because the case against the government servant is weak. The committees for checking sexual harassment at work place will have the powers to recommend transfer of the aggrieved woman or the charged officer to any other workplace, and to grant leave to the aggrieved woman up to a period of three months. "The leave will not be deducted from her leave account," it said.

Complaints committees have been set up in all ministries and organisations under them in pursuance to the judgement of the Supreme Court in the Vishakha case. These committees are to be headed by a woman and at least half of its members should be women. "In case a woman officer of sufficiently senior level is not available in a particular office, an officer from another office may be so appointed. To prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from senior levels, such complaints committees should involve a third party, either an NGO or some other body which is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment," the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said in its instructions.

The aggrieved woman or complainant is required to make a complaint within three months of the incident and in case there has been a series of incidents, three months of the last incident, it said.

The complaints committee may, however, extend the time limit for reasons to be recorded in writing, if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the complainant from filing a complaint within the stipulated period, the DoPT guidelines said.

Sexual harassment includes physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing any pornography and any other unwelcome physical, verbal, non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. Besides, implied or explicit promise of preferential or detrimental treatment in employment; implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status; interference with her work, creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment for her; and humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety may also amount to sexual harassment, it said.

The committee may make recommendations including deduction from the salary or wages of the charged officer such sum as it may consider appropriate to be paid to the aggrieved woman or to her legal heirs. "Committee may recommend action to be taken against complainant, if the allegation is malicious, or the complainant knows it to be false, or has produced any forged or misleading document. The Committee may also recommend action against any witness if such witness has given false evidence or produced any forged or misleading document," the DoPT instructions read.

The DoPT has cited special provisions to deal with threats or intimidation saying the action can be taken where the government servant, through or together with his associates terrorises, threatens or intimidates witnesses who are likely to give evidence against him with fear of reprisal in order to prevent them from doing so.

Action can also be taken if government servant himself or with others threatens, intimidates and terrorises the disciplinary authority, members of the committee, case presenting officer or members of their family, it said. The complaints committees may act on complaints of sexual harassment when they receive them directly or through administrative authorities etc, or when they take cognisance of the same suo-motu.

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