The Times of India, on 18th August, 2015 reported that the administration of the district of Gurgaon has written to the state women and child development department requesting them to set up a website which would enable employers to submit an annual report with respect to cases of sexual harassment at workplace, in accordance with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“the Act”) and comply with the law more effectively (Link provided below).
Non-compliance with this provision of the Act attracts penalty of an amount of Rs. 50,000 on the employer and may also lead to cancellation of license to do business in certain cases. The article referred to above has also mentioned this penalty and reported that a lot of employers submitted reports to the authority after it announced that it would start imposing the penalty of Rs. 50,000 on them. However, the provisions relating to submission of reports under the Act are somewhat ambiguous. From a plain reading of Section 21 of the Act it appears that the Internal Complaints Committee (“ICC”) or the Local Complaints Committee, as the case may be, shall prepare an annual report and submit the same to both the employer and the District Officer.
Yet, a combined reading of Section 21 with other related provisions of the Act including Section 19 (which deals with employer’s duties), Section 20 (which deals with District Officer’s duties) and Section 22 (which deals with submission of certain details by the employer to the District Officer, in certain circumstances), creates the impression that ICC is required to submit an annual report only to the employer and the employer is required to furnish certain details to the District Officer. Section 22 provides that the employer shall include in its report the number of cases filed, if any and their disposal under the Act in the annual report of his organisation or where no such report is required to be prepared, intimate such number of cases, if any, to the District Officer.
Due to such ambiguity, many employers (especially those who are required to prepare an annual report) appear to be perplexed whether or not to submit the annual report to the District Officer. How the authorities interpret the above mentioned provisions i.e. whether all employers are required to file a report with the District Officer or only those employers who are not required to prepare an annual report – is also yet to be seen.