PIL in Bombay HC seeks safeguards for pvt sector ICC members

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Mumbai, Jan 4 (PTI) A public interest litigation has been filed in the Bombay High Court seeking for members of the internal complaints committees (ICC) set up under Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act in private companies to be treated as public servants and be provided with certain safeguards.

The petition, filed by city resident Janaki Chaudhary, who was working in a corporate firm and used to head the ICC there, and advocate Abha Singh pointed out that members of such committees of private firms are not provided with any safeguards so as to enable them to act without fear and favour.

'Members of such committee are tasked with the statutory duty of adjudicating sexual harassment complaints while being on the payroll of the company and can be terminated,' the petition said.

'This creates a serious conflict of interest and constrains the member from taking free, fair and impartial decisions. If the member takes a decision that goes against the will of the senior management, then they are susceptible to victimisation and targeting,' the petition said.

It added that Chaudhary herself experienced these challenges as presiding officer of the internal complaints committee at her workplace.

'The present law, as it stands, leaves room for arm twisting of ICC members by the senior management of the company in the form of arbitrary transfers, termination and so on,' the plea said.

The petition said ICC members of government or public sector departments have several safeguards like fixed tenure, protection from arbitrary termination etc but those in ICCs in private firms have no such protection.

The petition has sought that ICC members of private sector companies be declared as public servants and they be granted the same protection as their counterparts in the public sector.

It also sought for a commission to be set up to review deficiencies in the Act and make recommendations to protect ICC members in the private sector.

The PIL will be taken up for hearing by a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni this week. PTI SP BNM BNM