<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry on Wednesday issued fresh guidelines in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, asking all ministries and their departments to furnish monthly report on all sexual harassment cases registered in that particular month. The guidelines, issued via an order of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), mandated that the monthly report should also contain the details of cases disposed of and the action taken in the reported cases.The guidelines comes after a meeting that WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi had on October 26 with the heads of the internal complaints committees of different ministries and their departments wherein cases of sexual harassment which were pending with government offices were also examined.“On the basis of the discussions, it was decided that DoPT will issue fresh instructions so that some of the issues can be suitably addressed,” said a ministry release. Apart from that, Gandhi’s meeting had in attendance the director of DoPT.“The development is a procedural one, where we look toward plugging any gaps in the implementation of the act,” said a DoPT official, who issued the order, dated December 22, 2016.The new guidelines also stated that ‘as far as practical’ inquiries in such cases should be completed within 30 days of the complaints. And that, “in no case should it take more than 90 days as per the limit prescribed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013,” it stated.The guidelines also mandated that no complainant should be victimised and that, for a period of five years from the day the complaint was made, the ICC should ensure that she is not subjected to vendetta, or is posted under the officer against whom the complaint is made, or any other officer who may subject her to any form of harassment.“In case of any victimisation, the complainant may submit a representation to the Secretary in the case of ministries/departments and head of the organisation in other cases. These representations should be dealt with sensitivity, in consultation with the complaints committee, ministries/departments and head of the organisation in other cases, and a decision taken within 15 days of the submission of the same,” the memorandum read. The guidelines come close on the heels of Gandhi announcing a review of the internal complaints committees in government offices.Late October this year, Maneka Gandhi announced the said committee because cases of delays in probes have been brought to her notice. She told DNA that she was compiling the cases in this regard.Over a month before that, in a DoPT memorandum dated September 9, 2016, and another dated July 11, 2016, the DoPT issued orders reiterating the seniority of the chairperson of the complaint committee.The orders maintained that the chairperson of the complaints committee “is legally competent to hold an inquiry into a case irrespective of the fact that the chairperson of such Committee is lower in rank to the employee against whom the allegations have been made” as per the July 11 mandate.Answering a Lok Sabha question in August last year, Gandhi said that there were 526 cases of sexual harassment at the workplace in 2014. She further informed that 57 cases were reported at office premises and 469 cases were registered at other places related to work during 2014.
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