Centre for Internet & Society

This page states CIS' policies against sexual harassment of women at its workplaces. The Policy on Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment Against Women establishes the Internal Committee (IC) and deals with the definition, prohibition, prevention, and redressal of sexual harassment at its workplace. The names and contact details of the current members of the IC are also provided. Other applicable CIS policies in this area include Workplace Fraternisation Policy and Guidelines for Interactions with Interns. All policies are published below.

 

For reporting complaints and information about an incident of harassment at CIS or involving CIS members, please contact any of the following Internal Committee members (IC) below. The IC recognizes that such reporting requires sharing of personal and sensitive information. The IC is an independent body at CIS and is bound by strict rules to appropriately handle such information and maintain confidentiality — as described in the policy below. 

Official email: ic.cisindia[at]protonmail[dot]com

Anubha Sinha: Presiding Officer, Delhi, profile, anubha.m[at]protonmail[dot]com 

Ambika Tandon: Member, Bengaluru, profile, and ambikatandon[at]protonmail[dot]com

Kalyani Menon-Sen: External Member, Delhi, profile, and kmenonsen[at]gmail[dot]com

P.P. Sneha: Member, Bengaluru, profile, and ppsneha[at]protonmail[dot]com

Divyank Katira: Member, Bengaluru, profile, and divyank.cisblr[at]protonmail[dot]com

Pallavi Bedi: Member, Delhi, profile, and pallavibedi[at]protonmail[dot]com


Frequently Asked Questions about the Policy on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment



Policy on Prohibition And Redressal of Sexual Harassment Against Women

1.         Preliminary

1.1       This Policy on Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment Against Women  ("Policy") states the internal policy of the Centre for Internet and Society ("CIS") with regard to the definition, prohibition, prevention, and redressal of sexual harassment of women at its workplaces. 

1.2       CIS is committed to creating and maintaining a safe, secure and comfortable workplace, free from impropriety, indignity and fear, for all people at its workplace.

Accordingly, CIS requires all members to undergo mandatory anti-sexual harassment training at regular intervals. CIS shall also ensure that its management and staff remain attentive and responsive to the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace; and, that other people (interns, consultants, etc.) who are granted access to CIS’ workplace are made aware of this Policy.

Further, the CIS Internal Committee (IC) is empowered to investigate complaints or allegations of sexual harassment against women and address them in a timely, impartial and sensitive manner.

Further, in an extraordinary situation where the CIS management or the CIS Board reasonably believes that there may be a case of sexual harassment pertaining to any current member of CIS, including the Executive Director, and in the situation where the jurisdiction of the IC is unclear, CIS commits to undertaking an investigation either at the executive, Board level, or through an independent third-party expert(s). CIS is commited to ensuring the investigation is impartial and follows due process.

1.3       This Policy is without prejudice to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 that was enacted into law on April 22, 2013. Sexual harassment of women, within or outside a workplace, is further defined and criminalized under section 354A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

2.         What is Sexual Harassment?

2.1       For the purposes of this Policy, sexual harassment, includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour, experienced by a woman, whether directly or by implication, committed in woman/ on print or via computer/ phone/ other media: 

(i) physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures;

(ii) a demand or request for sexual favours;

(iii) making obscene/ sexually coloured remarks or remarks of a obscene/ sexual nature about a woman's clothing or body;

(iv) showing pornography, making or posting sexual pranks, sexual teasing; 

(v) repeatedly asking to socialize during off-duty hours or continued expressions of sexual/ romantic interest against a woman’s wishes; 

(vi) deprecatory comments, conduct or any such behaviour based on the gender identity or sexual orientation of a woman;

(vi) voyeurism; or

(vii) stalking; 

(viii) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

Further, occurrence of any of the following circumstances in relation to any sexually determined act or behavior amounts to sexual harassment:

(ix) implied or explicit promise of preferential or detrimental treatment in employment;

(x) implied or explicit threat about present or future employment status;

(xi) interference with the woman’s work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment; or

(xii) humiliating treatment likely to affect the woman’s health or safety.

2.3       If in pursuit of a legitimate professional objective or in the ordinary course of work, it is necessary to carry out any activity, including discussion, viewing, reading or other handling of issues or material related to sex, sexuality, pornography or other activities of a sexual nature, such activity will not amount to sexual harassment provided that care is taken to ensure that such activity is carried out in a professional, respectful and dignified manner.

2.4. Finally, it should be noted that the allegation of sexual harassment depends on the experience of the aggrieved woman, and not on the intentions of the respondent.

3.         Who may Complain of Sexual Harassment?

3.1       CIS shall entertain complaints of sexual harassment from any individual where either the aggrieved woman is a member of CIS or a third party, whether contractually employed at CIS or not, allege to have been subject to sexual harassment at CIS’ workplace.

For the purposes of this policy, the ‘aggrieved woman’ means the woman who alleges to have been subject to sexual harassment; , and the ‘respondent’ means a woman against whom the aggrieved woman has filed a complaint under the provisions of this policy. 

For the purposes of this policy, woman refers to persons self-identifying as women, including cisgender and transgender women. 

3.2. Members may include any person engaged by CIS for any work, whether of regular, temporary or ad hoc basis, either directly or through an agent, including a contractor, with or without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, or working on a voluntary basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied and includes a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, intern or apprentice.

Accordingly, employees, whether on probation or permanent; staff; fellows; distinguished fellows; consultants; interns; board and society members are included as members of CIS.

3.3 CIS’ workplace includes its offices in Delhi and Bengaluru as well as any place or medium of interaction, nationally and internationally, where the members visit in connection with his/her work, during the course of employment and/or arising out of engagement with CIS, including transportation provided for undertaking work.

4.         Internal Committee (IC)

4.1       CIS has constituted an Internal Committee ("IC"), which serves its offices in Delhi and Bengaluru.

 
Name Location Designation E-mail
Anubha Sinha Delhi Presiding Officer anubha.m[at]protonmail[dot]com
Ambika Tandon Bengaluru Member

ambikatandon[at]protonmail[dot]com

Kalyani Menon-Sen Delhi External Member kmenonsen[at]gmail[dot]com
Divyank Katira Bengaluru Member divyank.cisblr[at]protonmail[dot]com
Pallavi Bedi Delhi Member pallavibedi[at]protonmail[dot]com
P.P. Sneha Bengaluru Member ppsneha[at]protonmail[dot]com

 

5.         How to Make a Complaint Of Sexual Harassment?

5.1       An aggrieved woman who alleges to have been subject to an act of sexual harassment may submit a complaint, in writing, to any member of the IC. Alternatively, the aggrieved woman may email the complaint to the IC at ic.cisindia[at]protonmail[dot]com, preferably from a non-organisational email account (for security purposes). 

(i) The complaint should be made within a period of three months from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three months from the date of last incident:

Provided that where such complaint cannot be made in writing, the Presiding Officer or any member of the IC shall render all reasonable assistance to the woman for making the complaint in writing: 

Provided further that the IC may, for the reasons to be recorded in writing, extend the time limit not exceeding three months, if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the said period.

(ii) Where the aggrieved woman is unable to make a complaint on account of his/her physical or mental incapacity or death or otherwise, his/her legal heir, relative, friend, co-worker, or any woman having the knowledge of the incident may make a complaint to the Presiding Officer of the IC or, subject to the following limitations:  

  1. The complaint should be made within a period of three months from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three months from the date of last incident.

    Provided further that the IC may, for the reasons to be recorded in writing, extend the time limit not exceeding three months, if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the said period.

(iii) Extraordinary situation: “Extraordinary situation” would include situations where the jurisdiction of the IC is unclear (for example, in cases where the limitation period has lapsed), including a potential case against the Executive Director.

  1. In such situations, where the CIS management or the CIS Board reasonably believe that there may be a case of sexual harassment pertaining to any current member of CIS, CIS commits to undertaking an inquiry either at the executive, Board level, or through an independent third party. CIS commits to ensuring the inquiry is impartial and follows due process.

  2. It should be noted that in case of an allegation/ complaint against the Executive Director, an alternate remedy is also available to complainants under section 6(1) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, where the Local Committee is empowered to inquiry complaints. The complainant has the option of electing either forums.
    The external entity, in receiving, conducting inquiry into, disposing of, and otherwise handling, complaints, adhere to the procedure below, in proper compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

 5.2   Receiving the Complaint 

(i) The IC shall take cognizance of the complaint at the earliest and in any case within ten working days of receiving the complaint. The Presiding Officer will constitute an Inquiry Committee of at least three IC members to conduct the inquiry and prepare the report. 

(ii) A complete copy of the complaint and other supporting documents, including evidence and statements of witnesses shall be sent to the respondent within ten working days of receiving the complaint.

(iii) Upon receiving a copy of the complaint, the respondent shall submit his reply to the complaint to the Inquiry Committee, along with supporting documents within a period of ten  working days. 

(iv) The Inquiry Committee shall share  the complete copy of the respondent’s reply and the supporting documents, including evidence and statements of witnesses with the  aggrieved woman within 10 working days of receiving it.  

5.2.1 Resolution through Conciliation 

(i) Once the complaint and reply are received, before initiating the inquiry the IC may take steps to conciliate the complaint between the aggrieved woman and the respondent. 

(ii) This shall be initiated only if requested by the aggrieved woman in writing. 

(iii) It should be made clear to all parties that conciliation in itself doesn’t necessarily mean acceptance of complaint by the respondent. It is a practical mechanism through which issues are resolved or misunderstandings cleared. 

(iv) In case a settlement is arrived at, the IC will record and report the same to the Executive Director for taking appropriate action. If conciliation fails and/or no settlement is reached between the parties, the IC shall proceed to conduct a formal inquiry into the complaint.

(v) The IC shall provide copies of the settlement to aggrieved woman and respondent. Once the action is implemented, no further inquiry is conducted. 

(vi) If the respondent and/ or Executive Director fail to implement the terms of the settlement, the aggrieved woman may request the IC to conduct a formal inquiry into the complaint. 

(vii) No monetary settlement shall be made as a basis of conciliation. 

5.2.2 Conducting a Formal Inquiry

(i) The IC commits to  conducting a prompt, thorough, and impartial inquiry of a complaint as necessary and appropriate, in accordance with the principles of natural justice. 

(ii) Upon receipt of a complaint, the Presiding Officer and two members shall at a meeting specially convened for this purpose, constitute from amongst its members a quorum of at least three members known as the Inquiry Committee to examine, conduct the inquiry, and prepare a report. The Inquiry Committee shall be notified to the parties prior to commencement of the inquiry and hearings, and will not be changed unless a situation mentioned in section 4(5) of the Act presents itself. Majority of the members of the Inquiry Committee shall be women. 

 The Inquiry Committee shall be subject to the following rules: 

(i) Both parties shall be given the opportunity to appear before the Inquiry Committee and present their case and/or submit names of any witnesses or documentary evidence substantiating their case. 

(ii) The Inquiry Committee shall have the power to call upon any such witnesses and record their statements. The proceedings shall be conducted in such language as may be familiar to the aggrieved woman and the respondent. 

(iii) Absent exceptional circumstances, the aggrieved woman and respondent should inform the Inquiry Committee in writing at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing the names of any witnesses he/she wishes to testify. Any information shared during a hearing is confidential.

(iv) A aggrieved woman or respondent shall not question each other or other witnesses directly but may raise questions to be asked of that party through the Inquiry Committee, which will determine whether to ask them. 

(v) The minutes of the proceedings shall be recorded in English and where the aggrieved woman or the respondent is not conversant with English, in addition, in such language as may be familiar to them.

(vI) If a party is not present for more than 3 consecutive hearings, without sufficient cause, the Inquiry Committee may, after giving that party a notice of 15 days, give an ex parte decision on the complaint or terminate the complaint.

(viI) The Inquiry Committee will make every effort to complete its inquiry within 90 days of a complaint of sexual harassment. 

(viii) The Inquiry Report of the Inquiry Committee, including its decision and recommendations, and reasons for arriving at such a decision, shall be communicated to the concerned parties and the Executive Director, in writing, at the earliest and in any case within 10 working days of completion of the inquiry.

Notification of the decision and the reasons shall be individually communicated to the respondent and the aggrieved woman on the same day. 

(ix) If the allegations against the respondent are proved to be true, the Inquiry Committee shall also recommend the penalties or corrective/restorative action that may be taken against him/ her to the Executive Director.

(x) The Executive Director shall act on the recommendation of the Inquiry Committee within a period of 60 days from the date of the receipt of the Inquiry Report, unless an appeal against the findings is filed within that period by either party.

5.3 Interim Relief for the Aggrieved Woman

(i) During the pendency of the inquiry, or during the pendency of the investigation by the police, on a written request made by the aggrieved woman or otherwise, the Inquiry Committee may recommend to the Executive Director to: 

  • Transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace; or

  • Suspend the respondent; ask them to work from home, or go on leave - for the duration of the inquiry; or

  • Grant leave to the aggrieved woman, for a period of three months maximum, in addition to the leave she would be otherwise entitled; or

  • Prevent the respondent and/ or Executive Director from assessing the aggrieved woman’s work performance; or

  • Grant such other relief as may be appropriate including:

    • Pass an order restraining all communication between respondent and various CIS members;

    • Pass an order restraining all communication between respondent and any CIS member which is likely to influence the inquiry;

    • Any other measure to inspire confidence in various members of the workplace that CIS is committed to providing a safe working environment.

Once the recommendations of interim relief are implemented, the Executive Director will inform the IC regarding the same. 

(iI) The Inquiry Committee shall also suo motu examine the inherent power asymmetry and/or the vulnerability of the aggrieved woman in such cases and take steps to ensure that the aggrieved woman is not subjected to a hostile environment during the inquiry. These steps include, but are not limited to, directing the respondent to cease communication with the complainant or asking the respondent to work from home. The determination shall be done on a case-by-case basis. 

A “hostile environment” is created when one’s acts or behaviours with sexual undertones at a workplace creates an environment that is uncomfortable for the complainant which in turn could affect one’s health and work performance or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment. 

5.4 Malicious Allegations

(i) Where the Inquiry Committee arrives at the 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 Executive Director to take action against the aggrieved woman or the person making the complaint. This includes remedial and restorative steps of undertaking training or counselling, and coupled with proportionate actions including warning, suspension and disciplinary action, depending on the seriousness of the case. 

While deciding malicious intent, the Inquiry Committee  will consider that mere inability to substantiate a complaint need not mean malicious intent. Malicious intent must be clearly established through a separate inquiry.

5.5 Confidentiality

The identity of the aggrieved woman, respondent, witnesses, statements and other evidence obtained in the course of inquiry process, recommendations of the IC, and action taken by the Executive Director are considered as confidential material, and will not be  published or made known to the public or media.

Any woman contravening the confidentiality clause is subject to disciplinary action as prescribed in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, wherever applicable.

5.6 Appeal

Any party not satisfied or further aggrieved by the decision of the IC, recommendations made by the IC or the implementation or non-implementation of such recommendations, may appeal to the appellate authority in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, within 90 days of the recommendations being communicated, wherever applicable. 

5.7 Prohibition of Retaliation 

CIS Members, including the Society and Board members, directors and management will not intimidate or take any retaliatory action (direct or indirect) against a woman who files a complaint or provides testimony/ evidence regarding a complaint in good faith. 

Types of retaliation that are prohibited include but are not limited to: 

(i) Intimidation;

(ii) Interference with the woman’s work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment;

(iii) Termination of employment;

(iv) Failing to hire or consider for hire or promotion; and

(iv) Adversely impacting working conditions or otherwise denying any employment benefit to an employee

Note that an adverse disciplinary action against a CIS member whose conduct or performance warrants such action for reasons unrelated to the reporting of a complaint will not be deemed a violation of this clause.

Individuals who are concerned about retaliation should approach the Presiding Officer of the IC at anubha.m[at]protonmail[dot]com or the External member of the IC at kmenonsen[at]gmail[dot]com. Such concerns will be addressed on priority. 

A conclusion of malicious allegation made by the aggrieved woman shall be investigated by the Inquiry Committee as per clause 5.4 of this policy.

 

 

 Workplace Fraternisation Policy 

  1. This policy applies to CIS members, including permanent and temporary staff, consultants, Board and Society members, Fellows, individuals sharing the workplace, interns and any other person in a professional role in the organization.

  2. ‘Fraternization’ for the purposes of this policy refers to consensual romantic or sexual relationships and interactions.

  3. CIS members in a supervisory or managerial position are expected to be strictly professional in their interactions with colleagues in junior positions owing to their capacity to affect decisions and conditions of employment of junior colleagues.

  4. Romantic or sexual relationships and interactions that may develop between CIS members across levels of hierarchy should be immediately disclosed by the senior CIS member either to their immediate supervisor, or the programme Director, or a member of the senior management team, with a request to be relieved from any direct or indirect supervisory role with respect to the junior CIS member. This is to address concerns of favoritism, nepotism, misuse of authority, exploitation and sexual harassment that may potentially arise.

  5. CIS members are prohibited from engaging in or initiating romantic or sexual relationships with interns (with the exception of pre-existing relationships). For further information, please see the separate policy on ‘Guidelines on Interaction with Interns’, below.

  6. Failure to comply with this policy, including failure to disclose romantic or sexual relationships and interactions, especially in cases which lead to potential conflict of interest, or cause misuse of authority and harassment, will be treated as a serious violation of professional standards and will invite disciplinary action by the management.

  7. CIS recognizes that such disclosure entails sharing of information that is personal and sensitive in nature. Accordingly, the senior management team is obligated to keep such information confidential and restrict it to the immediate chain of command, except in the instance of a disciplinary action or an IC inquiry. The management must ensure that such disclosures do not have any adverse effects on conditions of employment of both parties involved, either.

  8. This policy is also in accordance with CIS’ policy on Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment Against Women. Any instance of non-consensual romantic or sexual relationship or interactions between CIS members, including those that result from misuse of authority amount to sexual harassment and will be subject to an IC inquiry and attract severe action up to and including suspension and termination of association or employment with CIS.

  9. CIS is committed to creating a safe and harmonious working environment, and all members are encouraged to maintain professional standards of conduct at the workplace. This also includes being cognizant of personal interactions to ensure that it does not negatively impact work productivity, culture of teamwork, and comfort and safety of the working environment. Personal discussions or disputes in romantic or sexual relationships must be kept outside the workplace.

  10. CIS members must be respectful of privacy of colleagues in romantic relationships and refrain from monitoring any colleagues’ behaviour or share personal information. Gossip, rumors, inappropriate jokes and comments are prohibited; and instances of such behaviour, if noticed, may be reported to any member of the management and may invite disciplinary action.

Guidelines for Interactions with Interns

  1. CIS interns are professionals who occupy CIS workplaces for a brief period, and may  not be able to enjoy the full range of benefits and protections, and exercise limited agency compared to other types of CIS members. Hence, CIS members are prohibited from developing any romantic or sexual relationship and interactions with interns.

  2. Pre-existing, (including past) romantic relationships between a CIS member and an intern should be disclosed by the CIS member to their immediate supervisor, programme director or a member of the senior management team, with a request to be relieved from any direct or indirect supervisory role in relation to the intern. The disclosure should be made at the earliest.

  3. Failure to disclose a pre-existing romantic or sexual relationship with an intern will be treated as a serious violation of professional standards and will invite disciplinary action.

  4. CIS members, including permanent/ temporary staff, consultants, Board and Society members, fellows, individuals sharing our workplace, and any other woman in a potential supervisory role should be scrupulously professional and respectful in their interactions with interns, both at the workplace and outside it. Any instance of unprofessional or disrespectful behavior with interns will invite strict disciplinary action against CIS members.

  5. CIS places a positive duty of care on all CIS members to treat interns with utmost respect and professional support.