After submitting the complaint, complainant can request the LC/IC to settle the matter through conciliation. The IC/LC will communicate the complainant’s desire for conciliation to the respondent. If the respondent agrees for conciliation, the IC/LC can initiate for conciliation. The features of conciliation are:
If the respondent is an employee of other organization, the IC will forward the complaint to the IC of the respondent’s organization and in case of a third-party, IC will help the complainant in filing a police complaint.
The IC/LC will initiate inquiry into the complaint if:
IC/LC have the powers of Civil Court
For the purpose of conducting inquiry, IC/LC is vested with the powers of the Civil Court. Section 11 (3) of the POSH Act states: “For the purpose of making an inquiry under sub-section (1), the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) when trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely:—
If the aggrieved experiences any difficulty or discomfort when the case is under inquiry, she can inform this to the IC/LC. The IC/LC will recommend the employer to provide any of the following interim relief:
Conducting inquiries when the employees are working remotely, posts several challenges. Example:virtual meetings, collection of evidence, maintaining confidentiality. We have put together a comprehensive guide to this which can be accessed here.
Section 13 (1) of the POSH Act states “On the completion of an inquiry under this Act, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall provide a report of its findings to the employer, or as the case may be, the District Officer within a period of ten days from the date of completion of the inquiry and such report be made available to the concerned parties.”
Drafting an inquiry report is one of the most important tasks carried out by the Internal Committee. While drafting an inquiry report, Internal Committee should keep the following things in mind:
1. Title Page
The title page of the inquiry report can have the following details:
2. Inquiry Details
This section should capture all the essential details of the case. Care should be taken to document everything in detail. This section should include the following:
3. Inquiry Meetings
During inquiry, the Internal Committee (IC) will hold several meetings with the complainant, respondent, witnesses and among themselves. This section will capture the details of the inquiry meetings like:
If the complainant requested for conciliation, the details of the conciliation procedure should be clearly documented in this section. It is important to add a declaration that there was no monetary settlement as part of the Conciliation process. If the complainant did not request for conciliation, the same can be mentioned in this section.
5. Findings & Conclusion
This section is very important as it captures the findings of the entire inquiry. If either of the two parties go to court for an appeal, details provided in this section will carry lot of significance. Therefore, this should contain details of how the principles of natural justice were adhered to during the inquiry process and the reasons why the IC upheld or dismissed the allegations made by the Complainant. The reasons should be elaborated in detail.
6. Recommendations to the Employer
This section should capture the disciplinary actions recommended against the respondent. Disciplinary actions can also be recommended against the complainant if it is proved that the complainant had filed a false complaint. Details of Rehabilitation for the aggrieved should also be included in this section. If the allegation against the Respondent is not proved, the same should be mentioned in this section with a statement that no further action on this complaint is required.
7. Declaration by the IC
It is recommended for the IC to add a declaration. The declaration can contain the following points.
8. Signature of the IC Members
The inquiry report should end with the signatures of the Presiding Officer, IC Members and External Member.
If the respondent is found guilty
If the allegation against the respondent is proved, the IC can recommend actions against the respondent. The IC should keep the following in mind when writing the recommendations.
As per the POSH Act, IC has the powers of a civil court and it can award punishments mentioned in the service rules of the organization. If no service rules exist, based on the severity of the offence, IC can make recommendations like:
If the complainant is found guilty of filing a False Complaint
Filing a false complaint is punishable according to the POSH Act. If it is proved that the complainant has filed a complaint with malicious intent, or with the knowledge that the complaint is false, the IC can recommend action against the complainant as prescribed in the service rules of the organization. If service rules do not exist, IC can then award the same recommendations listed above.
Compensation for the Aggrieved Woman
Section 15 of the POSH Act speaks about “Determination of Compensation” and provides guidelines for it. POSH Act states that:
For the purpose of determining the sums to be paid to the aggrieved woman under clause (ii) of sub-section (3) of section 13, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall have regard to—
POSH Act takes a serious view about false complaints. Section 14 (1) of the POSH Act talks about false complaints and punishment for the same.
Where the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, arrives at a conclusion that the allegation against the respondent is malicious or the aggrieved woman or any other person making the complaint has made the complaint knowing it to be false or the aggrieved woman or any other person making the complaint has produced any forged or misleading document, it may recommend to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, to take action against the woman or the person who has made the complaint under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 9, … in such manner as may be prescribed:”
POSH Act makes it very clear that mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof will not automatically prove that the complaint was false.
Section 14(1) of the POSH Act states:
“Provided that a mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof need not attract action against the complainant under this section”
If it is proven that a person has made false complaint, the penalties awarded should be in accordance with the service rules. In case, no such service rules exist, based on the severity of the complaint, any of the following penalties can be awarded to the guilty:
While the POSH Act allows for penalties to the complainant for filing a false complaint, there is no provision for compensation to the respondent.You can read more about POSH Act and False Complaints here.