#MeToo: CASC Legal Notice To Maneka Gandhi For Action Against BJP, Congress, CPI(M) Over Lack Of ICC

#MeToo: CASC Legal Notice To Maneka Gandhi For Action Against BJP, Congress, CPI(M) Over Lack Of ICC

Amidst the heat generated by the #MeToo movement which forced Minister of State for External Affairs AJ Akbar to step down, think-tank Centre for Accountability and Systematic Change (CASC) on Wednesday sent a legal notice to Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, seeking imposition of fine of Rs 50,000 on heads of the BJP,  Congress and CPI(M) for failing to put in place an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to complete violation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

In its legal notice sent through advocate Virag Gupta, CASC also demanded that a show cause notice be issued to all other political parties asking them why no action be taken against them for failing to constitute ICC to deal with complaints of sexual harassment.

A copy of the legal notice has also been sent to the Election Commission of India since it registers all the political parties.

CASC demanded action in seven days failing which it will move court.

“Political parties form the biggest private sector and are entities that have reach across India. There are 7 national, 59 state and more than 2000 registered unrecognised political parties in India. Most of them promise for security of women in their manifestos and campaign. However, many of them do not have the Internal Complaints Committee as required under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal), Act, 2013,” read the legal notice sent to Maneka Gandhi.

While speaking of allegations against MJ Akbar which date back in time, CASC said there were instances of sexual harassment happening in the present time as well.

“The president of NSUI has resigned following the allegations of sexual harassment. Such allegations have also been made against the social manager of Congress and as there was no ICC, FIR was lodged after a long time. There have been numerous instances of sexual harassment by the leaders of political parties for election ticket distribution or extending favours,” it said.

The legal notice said, “Political parties are the biggest private organisations in the country claiming membership of crores but have not complied with the law which requires compliance by any organisation with minimum 10 workers...political leaders are mostly connected with the state governments and have been known to influence the police. Hence, it becomes difficult for victims to approach the police.”

The legal notice further stated that the ministry had come up with a handbook for better implementation of the Act in 2015 but nothing has been done.

Relying on a newspaper report showing absence of ICC in the BJP, Congress and CPI(M), the CASC demanded that a fine of Rs 50,000 be imposed on each of the three parties besides show cause notice being issued to other political parties asking them why no action be taken against them for not putting ICC in place.

“Your action on the political parties will strengthen the belief of women in the legal system and also send strongest message to all violators,” it said.