New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to a bill under which cases of sexual harassment at workplace, including against domestic help, will have to be disposed of by in-house committees within 90 days failing which a penalty will be imposed. Repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) law, can lead to higher penalties and even cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
The bill was cleared by Parliament in February this year. The new law brings in its ambit even domestic workers and agriculture labour, both organised and unorganised sectors. As per the act, sexual harassment includes any one or more of unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography.
Non-compliance with the provisions of the act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000. It has also provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges. A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which had examined the bill, had held the firm view that preventive aspects reflected in it has to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the 1997 Vishaka case.
The apex court's judgement in the case not only defines sexual harassment at workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action.