POSH – Prevention of Sexual harassment of women at Workplace Law... Whenever, Wherever we say POSH, we often think about Corporates, The large establishments, Offices, Government undertakings etc., but we hardly think about the Higher Educational Institutions.
In India, the institutional framework of higher education consists of Universities and Colleges. As reported in 2015, India has 760 universities and 38,498 colleges. India's higher education system is the third-largest in the world, next to the United States and China.
Being an authorized POSH Trainer, in our experience there are well-reputed Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) who either are not aware of the applicability of POSH law or are they not serious about the implementation POSH Law at their Institutions.
The Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) is applicable on all educational Institutions also. Looking into gravity and seriousness of the subject the affiliating bodies for Higher Educational Institutions i.e. University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) have issued separate regulations for the applicability and implementation of POSH law. The regulations are:
University Grants Commission (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Education Institutes) Regulations, 2015
All India Council for Technical Education (Gender sensitization, Prevention and Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students and Redressal in Technical Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2016.
Both Regulations apply on all Higher and Technical Educational Institutions and it insists strict compliance. In fact, these regulations are stipulated wider definitions and scope to handle the subject issue in HEI vis-à-vis the Corporate.
In fact, as regards to the Corporate, the POSH Act, as of now, applies to the complaints of women, the UGC and AICTE Regulations apply to the male students also.
Whereas, the regulations issued by UGC and AICTE are gender neutral so far as students are concerned. Even the male, trans-sexual or third gender students can also file a complaint under these regulations, in case they face sexual harassment at 'campus' (as defined below).
Under these Regulations, there are additional definitions which are not under the POSH Act, with an intention to cover the entire system of HEI under the gamut of law.
Let's look at some of those definitions:
'Campus' The workplace includes Campus which is defined as
'Third Party Harassment'
'Sexual Harassment' The definition of sexual harassment is also extended:
Prevention and Prohibition:
Each and every HEI should have a 'zero tolerance policy' towards sexual harassment. The management should ensure that there should not be any incident of sexual harassment at the campus.
4. Proper redressal system in place in terms of regulations.
A senior woman faculty member
2 faculty Members +
2 non-teaching employees
Preferably who are committed to the cause of women or having legal knowledge or experience in social work
3 students – If the matter pertains to the students
Shall be enrolled at the undergraduate, master's, and research scholar levels respectively.
From NGO, Association is working for women or any other person having knowledge of issues of sexual harassment.
Any complaint received by any female employee or student (irrespective of gender) about sexual harassment, must be dealt with by the ICC within a period of 90 days from the date of the complaint. During the cource of inquiry, the complainant is also entitled for interim redressal:
Anyone found guilty of committing an offence of sexual harassment may be punished according to the applicable service rules. If the respondent is student and found guilty can be punished with either of below mentioned punishments:
Either party to the proceedings, if not satisfied with the recommendations of the Internal Complaints Committee, may prefer an appeal before Executive Authority within a period of 30 days from recommendations.
Action by the Executive Authority:
The executive Authority has to take final decision on the recommendations of ICC within a period of 30 days.
Every HEI is bound to follow the provisions of POSH Act and Regulations issued by UGC/AICTE. The non-compliance attracts penalty for HEI:
All action shall be taken after affording an opportunity to explain its position.
In-spite of strict, mandatory provisions to prevent sexual harassment at any HEI campus, it seems that the HEIs are not serious about the compliances. The awareness for teaching, non-teaching staff and students is an important aspect to prevent the incidents of sexual harassment and also will help the students in their future with corporate.
Our young generation in colleges usually attends many workshops related to various aspects about their future endeavors including Campus to Corporates. When they reach in their respective offices, they hear something about POSH, first time. Coming from college atmosphere, often they struggle to understand the thin line of 'limits' while interacting with their female colleagues. If the students are made aware of the laws related to sexual harassment at college-level itself, it'll be easy for them to understand the boundaries of behaviour at corporate level.
Therefore, while talking or discussing the POSH law the focus should not only be for corporate rather it should be more for HEIs. Such an initiative will even help minimize such incidents at the corporate level also.
Prevention is always better than Cure.
Deepa Rafeeque is a Lawyer and Corporate Trainer at Vlegal
[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of LiveLaw and LiveLaw does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]