Providing info on sexual harassment panel to be made mandatory

NEW DELHI: Government has set off the process of making it mandatory for private companies to inform about constitution of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) on sexual harassment in their annual disclosures made under the Companies Act after they did not show requisite interest in the matter.

The Women and Child Development Ministry has written to Corporate Affairs Ministry asking it to notify constitution of ICC as a mandatory disclosure under Section 134 of the Companies Act, 2013.

"In order to ensure that private sector companies also constitute ICC as mandated under Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, it will be appropriate to ask the companies to disclose the constitution of the IIC in their Annual Disclosures filed under the provision of Section 134 of the Companies Act 2013," the letter said.

Union Minister Maneka Gandhi had asked leading business chambers including FICCI, ASSOCHAM and CII to submit compliance report as most of the private companies in the country do not have internal committees to address sexual harassment cases.

"While adequate protection is available in government structures to women, it is important that women in the private sector are also given the same level of protection. We had taken up this matter with Chambers of business but we have not been able to cut much ice with them," it said.

Section 134 of the Act enables the Central government to mandate any non-financial disclosure to be made in the Directors' Report of a company.

"Since companies did not show much interest on the matter, we have decided to make it mandatory for them under the Companies Act, 2013. We have written to Corporate Affairs Ministry to notify the rule," a senior official told PTI. As the nodal ministry for implementation of Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, we noticed that various categories of organisations have not even constituted the ICC as required under the Act, the official said.

"There has been an increase in the number of cases of sexual harassment at workplace being brought up by women employees in different organizations," the official said.

The anti-sexual harassment law provides for a penalty of Rs 50,000 on employers who fail to implement its various provisions.