IN this second column in the Know Your Rights series on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace, we will discuss the constitution of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), its duties, and the tenure of their members.
The full text of the Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 can be accessed here.
- What is an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)?
The Internal Complaints Committee is a self-regulatory mechanism under the Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred as the 2013 Act), and is mandated to be formed at every workplace, public or private, that has more than ten employees.
- What happens if there is no ICC at the workplace?
If an employer does not form an ICC, but has at least ten employees, they can incur a fine under the 2013 Act.
- What is the mechanism for workplaces that have less than 10 employees?
For workplaces with less than ten employees, or when the complaint is against the employer , the 2013 Act provides for the creation of a Local Complaints Committee at a district level. The composition and responsibilities of a Local Complaints Committee will be discussed by us in a subsequent post.
The definition, and ambit of a “workplace” and “sexual harassment” has been covered by us in our previous post in these series, and can be accessed here.
- What is the purpose of an Internal Complaints Committee?
The right to non-discrimination at work, and to have a safe workplace is a fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 15, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
In pursuance of this right, the purpose of an Internal Complaints Committee is to be an in-house procedure for reporting complaints of sexual harassment, and conducting an inquiry within the organisation itself. The employer is required to display the formal order that constitutes the Internal Complaints Committee at an easily accessible place in the workplace.
- What about organisations that have separate units in different locations?
Even if the workplace has offices or units situated at different locations, or at divisional or sub-divisional levels, the 2013 Act requires that separate Internal Complaints Committees be constituted at each level if the number of employees in that unit or division is more than ten.
- ICC is mandated to be formed at every workplace, public or private with 10 employees.
- ICC is an in-house procedure for reporting complaints of sexual harassment and conducting an inquiry within the workplace.
- Presiding officer at the ICC must be a woman employed at a senior level at the workplace.
- How many members does an ICC have?
Section 4 of the 2013 Act provides that an Internal Complaints Committee is to have a minimum of four members, nominated by the employer. These are:
- one Presiding Officer
- not less than two members nominated from the organisation itself;
- and one independent representative from a non-government organisation or associations committed to the cause of women, or any person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
- Who are eligible to be members of ICC?
The position of the Presiding Officer in an Internal Complaints Committee is reserved for a woman employed at a senior level at the workplace. In case a senior level woman employee is not available, the 2013 Act provides the option of nominating a senior woman employee from other units or offices of the workplace.
The law specifies that other members nominated from within the workplace should preferably be those that have displayed commitment to the cause of women, have had experience in social work, or have legal knowledge. The 2013 Act requires two such members. However, as per the employer’s discretion, the number of internal members nominated to the Internal Complaints Committee can be more than two.
The criteria for determining “experience in social work” has also been clarified under the 2013 Act to mean “A social worker with at least 5 years of experience in the field of social work in the area of empowerment of women, and in particular sexual harassment at the workplace, or, a person familiar with labour, service, civil, or criminal law.”
- How are members of an ICC selected?
The employer nominates all the members of the ICC, following the conditions specified in the Act.
- Are there any other conditions while forming an ICC?
One of the conditions mandated under the 2013 Act is that at least half of the nominated members of the Internal Complaints Committee should be women.
- What is the tenure of all members of the ICC?
The Presiding Officer and other members of the Internal Complaints Committee are each to have a tenure not exceeding three years from the date of their nomination.
- Is there any remuneration to be provided to members of the ICC?
The 2013 Act provides for the independent member from the non-government organisation to be paid at least Rs. 200 per day for holding the proceedings before the Internal Complaints Committee, and reimburse them for travel cost incurred in travelling by train in three tier air conditioned, or air conditioned bus or auto or rickshaw or taxi.
- Can members of the ICC be removed before their tenure ends?
The 2013 Act makes provisions for the removal of members of the Internal Complaints Committee in certain situations. It stipulates that if any member of the Internal Complaints Committee, including the Presiding Officer’s conduct qualifies under the following situations, such member should be removed. If such member,
- publishes or makes known the contents of the complaint or the inquiry proceeding before the Internal Complaints Committee; or
- has been convicted or has an inquiry into any offence pending under any law, or
- is found guilty in any disciplinary proceeding or has a disciplinary proceeding pending, or
- has so abused their position, that their continuance as a member of the Internal Complaints Committee shall be prejudicial to public interest.
- What are the duties of an ICC?
Members of the Internal Complaints Committee have the responsibility of conducting inquiries into the complaints received, preparing a final report of such complaints, and preparing an annual report on the functioning of the Internal Complaints Committee.
The Internal Complaints Committee is the first level of inquiry, making legal redress accessible to women in their workplace itself, and is a measure to ensure that workplaces are safe from sexual harassment.
- What is the legal effect of the recommendation of an ICC?
Although the Internal Complaints Committee is as a self-regulatory mechanism, its recommendation as given to the employer has legal sanction and can be appealed to the appropriate court or tribunal.
The ICC has the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in the matters of summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining them on oath; and requiring the discovery and production of documents.
- How is the functioning of the ICC evaluated?
The Internal Complaints Committee is mandated under the law to prepare an annual report in every calendar year and submit it to the employer. Such report should contain information regarding:
- the number of complaints of sexual harassment received in the year
- number of complaints disposed of during the year
- number of cases pending for more than 90 days
- number of workshops and awareness programmes carried out on sexual harassment at the workplace
- nature of action taken by the employer.
Also Read the Part 1: Sexual Harassment at Workplace: Part I | Introducing the 2013 Act, crucial definitions
In the next article of Know Your Rights on Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace, we will discuss the Local Complaints Committee under the 2013 Act that function at the district level for workplaces that have less than ten employees, or if the complaint is against the employer himself.