Internal Complaint Committee Policy for Women Welfare and Safety at Workplace
One of the core objectives of the Vivekananda Global University, Jaipur (hereinafter referred to as “University”) is to ensure gender equality and gender justice through the University interventions and practices. In keeping with this principle, it is important to ensure a climate, free from discrimination and harassment, with a particular focus on prevention of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment of women has come to be widely condemned as a form of human rights violation, an infringement on life and liberty and a grave form of gender-based discrimination. Such behaviour is an affront to dignity, gender equality, and fundamental rights.
The Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgment in August 1997 (Vishaka & others vs. the State of Rajasthan & others) stated that every instance of sexual harassment is a violation of “Fundamental Rights” under Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution of India, and amounts to a violation of the “Right to Freedom” under Article 19 (1)(g). The Supreme Court further reiterated that sexual harassment “is a violation of the fundamental right to gender equality and the right to life and liberty”. Another Supreme Court Judgment in January 1999 (Apparel Export Promotion Council vs. Chopra) has stated that sexually harassing behaviour “needs to be eliminated as there is no compromise on such violations”.
Sexual Harassment is an offence under The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 No. 14 of 2013. Section 3(1) provides that: “No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace.” Section 19 provides that “Every employer shall- (a): provide a safe working environment at the workplace which shall include safety from the persons coming into contact at the workplace”. Section 4(1) of the Act requires that: “Every employer of a workplace shall, by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the “Internal Complaints Committee”.
Educational institutions are bound by the “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013”. Further in the year 2015, University Grants Commission notified UGC (Prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment of women employees and students in higher educational institutions) Regulations, 2015. These regulations have also been incorporated in the policy to achieve the transparency while dealing with the issues of women safety and grievances.
According to Section 2(o)” workplace” includes-. (ii) any private sector organization or a private venture, undertaking, enterprise, institution, establishment, society, trust, non-governmental organization, unit or service provider carrying on commercial, professional, vocational, educational, distribution or service.”).
“employee” means a person as defined in the Act and also includes, for the purposes of these Regulations trainee, apprentice (or called by any other name), interns, volunteers, teacher assistants, research assistants, whether employed or not, including those involved in field studies, projects, short-visits and camps;
The Vivekananda Global University, Jaipur (VGU) is committed to uphold the Constitutional mandate ensuring the above-mentioned human rights of all those who fall within its jurisdiction. It is with this objective that these Rules have been framed.
`Sexual harassment of individuals occurring in the place of work or study or in other settings in which they may find themselves in connection with their association with the University is unlawful and will not be tolerated by the University. Further, any retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment or retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is similarly unacceptable. To achieve this goal, conduct that is described as “Sexual Harassment” in this policy will not be tolerated and a procedure is provided by which inappropriate conduct will be dealt with, if encountered among employees/students.
While this policy sets forth the goal of the University of promoting a Campus that is free of sexual harassment, the policy is not designed or intended to limit the authority of the University to discipline or take remedial action for conduct which the University deems unacceptable, regardless of whether that conduct satisfies the definition of sexual harassment.
For the purposes of this Policy the definitions will be as provided in section 2 of the Act No. 14 of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Consistent with the existing law, the University shall take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure prevention of sexual harassment.
Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)
Grievance Redressal Mechanism. — The University shall constitute Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) with an inbuilt mechanism for gender sensitization against sexual harassment. The ICC shall have the following composition: –
Provided that in case a senior level woman employee is not available, the Presiding Officer shall be nominated from other offices or administrative units of the workplace referred to in sub-section 2(o);
Provided further that in case the other offices or administrative units of the workplace do not have a senior level woman employee, the Presiding Officer shall be nominated from any other workplace of the same employer or other department or organization;”
Power & Functions of the ICC
Power and Functions of ICC includes:
In case of resignation of any member the President shall nominate a suitable replacement
Procedure of Dealing with Complaints of Sexual Harassment
The Committee shall follow the procedure as laid down in the Act No. 14 of 2013 and UGC Regulation 2015 for dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.
Process of Inquiry
Process of making complaint of sexual harassment –
(1) An aggrieved person is required to submit a written complaint to the ICC within three months from the date of the incident and in case of a series of incidents within a period of three months from the date of the last incident.
Provided that where such complaint cannot be made in writing, the Presiding Officer or any Member of the Internal Committee shall render all reasonable assistance to the person for making the complaint in writing;
Provided further that the ICC may, for the reasons to be accorded in the writing, extend the time limit not exceeding three months, if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the person from filing a complaint within the said period.”
(2) Friends, relatives, Colleagues, Co-students, Psychologist, or any other associate of the victim may file the complaint in situations where the aggrieved person is unable to make a complaint on account of physical or mental in capacity or death.
(3) The ICC shall, upon receipt of the complaint, send one copy of the complaint to the respondent within a period of seven days of such receipt.
(4) Upon receipt of the copy of the complaint, the respondent shall file his or her reply to the complaint along with the list of documents, and names and addresses of witnesses within a period of ten days.
(5) The inquiry has to be completed within a period of ninety days from the receipt of the complaint.
(6) The statements and other evidence obtained in the inquiry process will be considered confidential materials.
(7) An officer in the University could be designated to provide advice and assistance to each party if requested by either of them. Similarly, the complainant and the accused will have the right to be represented or accompanied by a member of staff, a friend or a colleague.
(8) The Committee will organize verbal hearings with the complainant and the accused.
Statement of Complainant will be recorded first in the presence of the accused. The accused may cross question the complaint if there is a need to do so in the presence of the Committee.
(9) The Committee will take testimonies of other relevant persons and review the evidence whenever necessary. Care should be taken to avoid any retaliation against the witnesses by giving necessary protection.
(10) The Committee will take its decision after carefully reviewing the circumstances, evidence and relevant statements in all fairness.
(11) If the accused, being provided fair opportunity to participate in the inquiry and defend him/her fails to participate in the inquiry, the Committee may conduct the inquiry exparte.
(12) The Committee will ensure confidentiality during the inquiry process.
(13) In the course of investigating any complaint of sexual harassment, the Committee shall ensure that the principles of natural justice are adhered to namely:
(i) Both parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to be heard along with witnesses and to produce any other relevant documents before the Committee;
(ii) Upon completion of the investigation, both parties will be informed of the findings of that investigation.
(iii) Documents which form part of the official record shall also be given to the complainant if need be.
(14) The Committee shall be empowered to do all things necessary to ensure a fair hearing of the complaint including all things necessary to ensure that victims or witnesses are neither victimized nor discriminated against while dealing with a complaint of sexual harassment. In this regard, the Committee shall also have discretion to make appropriate interim recommendations vis-à-vis an accused person pending the outcome of a complaint including suspension, transfer, leave, change of office/ hostel, etc.
(15) On completion of the inquiry, the Committee shall report its findings along with appropriate recommendations for necessary action to be initiated, to the President within a period of 10 days of completion of inquiry.
(16) Where the committee arrives at a conclusion that the allegation against the respondent is malicious or that the complainant made the complaint knowing it to be false or if the complainant/aggrieved has produced false/forged or misleading documents, it may make appropriate recommendation for taking action against the aggrieved/ complainant.
(17) The penalties listed below (in ascending order) are indicative, and shall not constrain the University authorities from considering others, in accordance with the rules governing the conduct of employees and students, in practice at the time.
Penalties in Case of Academic Staff
Further, the penalty awarded shall be recorded in his/her Confidential Record.
(v) Expulsion from the University, and/or a bar on appearing for the entrance examination/interview to any programme of study offered by University.
Internal Complaint Committee