[dropcap]I[/dropcap]N this third column in the Know Your Rights series on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace, we will discuss the purpose and constitution of the Local Complaints Committees.
In our previous columns, we have discussed the meaning of sexual harassment and the constitution of the Internal Complaints Committees.
The full text of the Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 can be accessed here.
What is a Local Complaints Committee (LCC)?
A Local Complaints Committee is a committee to receive complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace from establishments that do not have an Internal Complaints Committee because they have less than 10 workers, or when the complaint is against the employer himself.
This Committee is important for women who work in the unorganised sector or for domestic workers.
The LCC is mandated under Section 6 of the Sexual Harassment (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 (the 2013 Act).
If there is no designated workplace, how is the jurisdiction of an LCC decided?
An LCC is to be made at a district level as under Section 5 of the 2013 Act.
Who is responsible for creating an LCC in every district?
As per Section 5 of the 2013 Act, an officer at the post of a District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate, or the Collector or Deputy Collector is to be notified as “District Officer” by the appropriate government and it is the District Officer’s responsibility to constitute an LCC in her district.
A district may have many villages, tehsils or municipalities. How are complaints from different villages, tehsils in a district forwarded to an LCC?
The District Officer has to designate one Nodal Officer in every block, taluka, and tehsil in rural or tribal areas. In an urban area, a Nodal Officer has to be appointed for every ward or municipality.
The Nodal Officer’s primary responsibility is to receive complaints and forward the same to the concerned LCC within a period of seven days. This procedure is explained under Section 6(2) of the 2013 Act.
How many members does an LCC have?
Section 7 of the 2013 Act provides that a Local Complaints Committee is to have a minimum of five members. Four of these are to be nominated by the District Officer, and one is a default member. Their details are:
one Chairperson, nominated from among eminent women in the field of social work and committed to the cause of women
one member, nominated from among the women working in a block, taluka, tehsil or ward or municipality in the district
Two members, nominated, out of which at least, one should be from such NGOs or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
The officer in the district dealing with the social welfare or women and child development shall also be an ex-officio, e. by default, be a member of the LCC
Are there any other criteria to be kept in mind while nominating members to the LCC?
There are two additional conditions to be kept in mind by the District Officer while nominating members to the LCC:
One of the nominees should preferably have a background in law or legal knowledge.
At least one of the nominees should be a woman belonging to the Scheduled Caste or the Scheduled Tribes or the Other Backward Classes or minority community notified by the Central Government.
The criteria for determining “person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment” has also been clarified under the Rules accompanying the 2013 Act. It explains it as “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.”
What is the tenure of all members of the LCC?
The Chairperson and other members of the Internal Complaints Committee are each to have a tenure not exceeding three years from the date of their appointment by the District Officer.
Is there any remuneration to be provided to members of the LCC?
The rules accompanying the 2013 Act entitles the Chairperson of the LCC an allowance of Rs. 250 per day for holding the proceeding of the said Committee.
The members nominated from NGOs, other than those nominated under Section 7(1)(b) or (d) of the 2013 Act, will be paid at least Rs. 200 per day for holding the proceedings before the LCC, and will be reimbursed for the 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 LCC be removed before their tenure ends?
The 2013 Act makes provisions for the removal of members of the LCC in certain situations. It stipulates that if any member of the LCC, including the Chairperson’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 enquiry proceeding before the Internal Complaints Committee; or
has been convicted or is pending an enquiry into any offence under any law, or
is found guilty in any disciplinary proceeding or is pending such disciplinary proceeding, or
has so abused their position, that their continuance as a member of the Internal Complaints Committee shall be prejudicial to the public interest.
What are the duties of the LCC?
The duties of the LCC are the same as an Internal Complaints Committee.
Members of the Local Complaints Committee have the responsibility of conducting enquiries into the complaints received, preparing a final report of such complaints, including suggesting reliefs and penalties to the employer, if applicable, and preparing an annual report on the functioning of the Local Complaints Committee.
What is the legal effect of the recommendation of an LCC?
Although the Local Complaints Committee is as a self-regulatory mechanism, its recommendation has legal sanction. The Committee 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 him on oath; and requiring the discovery and production of documents.
How is the functioning of the LCC evaluated?
The Local Complaints Committee is mandated under the law to prepare an annual report in every calendar year and submit it to the District Officer. The District Officer, under Section 21 of the 2013 Act shall forward a brief report on the annual report received to the state government.
Such a report prepared by the LCC should contain information regarding:
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
nature of action taken by the employer against complaints of sexual harassment