Centre for Internet & Society

Here are the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the Policy on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment at the CIS. Please write to <[email protected]> for any further clarification, including other questions, as well as to submit a complaint.

 

Policy on Prohibition of Sexual Harassment


1. What constitutes sexual harassment?

Illustratively, physical harassment includes touching, hugging, kissing, pinching, blocking path, brushing against someone, invading someone’s personal space in a bid to attempt body contact.

Verbal harassment includes using obscenities, making suggestive comments or jokes, inappropriate humour, making threats, repeatedly making romantic propositions against a person’s wishes, making sexual propositions, remarks on clothing or physical attributes.

Non-verbal harassment includes staring, obscene gestures, displaying/ sending sexual content on print/ computer/ phone/ other media, sexually suggestive glances.

However, 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.

Finally, it should be noted that sexual harassment is made out from the experience of the aggrieved person, and not by the intentions of the accused.

Under CIS’ policy, any person regardless of their gender, can make a complaint against any such non consensual acts or behavior. CIS has zero-tolerance for any kind of harassment.

2. What is consent?

Legally, consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when a person by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates willingness to participate in any sexually determined behaviour or pattern of conduct.

Consent must be ongoing and applies only to the specific sexually determined behaviour or pattern of conduct the initiator seeks to engage in.

Consent can be revoked at any point. Silence or lack of resistance cannot be construed as consent.

3. Who can make a complaint against sexual harassment? Can a third party file a complaint?

The policy applies to and protects everyone at CIS’ workplace, whether employed contractually or not. All members and third-parties can submit a complaint under this policy, against any member of CIS to report an incident that occurred at the workplace or committed via any other mode of communication.

Members include anyone engaged by CIS for any work, whether 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.

CIS’ workplace includes its offices in Delhi and Bengaluru as well as any place 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 such work. The policy will also apply to all attendees for events organised by CIS.

4. What is the limitation period for making a complaint? In other words, how soon should the aggrieved person make the complaint?

A complaint should be made within one year of the from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of one year from the date of last incident.

We urge aggrieved persons to make a complaint at the earliest.

5. How can an aggrieved person make a complaint? Can another person file a complaint on behalf of the aggrieved person?

An aggrieved person may prefer a complaint, in writing, to the ICC ([email protected]), or any member of the current ICC (details given below).

Where the aggrieved person 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 person having the knowledge of the incident may make a complaint to the ICC, any member of the ICC, or the Executive Director.

Complaints may be made anonymously to either the ICC or Executive Director, although prior written consent from the aggrieved person will be necessary to submit the complaint.

Name Location Designation E-mail
Anubha Sinha Delhi Presiding Officer [email protected]
Ambika Tandon Bengaluru Member [email protected]
Kalyani Menon-Sen Delhi External Member [email protected]
P.P. Sneha Bengaluru Member [email protected]

 

6. Can CIS investigate incidents of sexual harassment in the absence of a complaint?

Yes, in the absence of a complaint, the ICC shall have discretionary powers to investigate incidents that may amount to sexual harassment after obtaining due consent from the aggrieved person, in writing.

7. Once a complaint is made, how will the investigation proceed?

Once a complaint is properly received, the ICC shall take cognizance of the complaint at the earliest and in any case within 10 days of receiving the complaint. Once the complaint and reply (from accused) are received, before initiating the inquiry the ICC may take steps to conciliate the complaint between the aggrieved person and the respondent. Conciliation shall be initiated only if requested by the aggrieved person.

If the aggrieved person wishes to proceed with the investigation of the complaint, the ICC shall conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation. Both parties shall be given the opportunity to appear before the ICC and present their case and/or submit name of any witnesses or documentary evidence substantiating their case. The ICC 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 complainant and the respondent.

The quorum for investigation and hearing will comprise of at least 3 members, including a woman member. The quorum will not be changed throughout the process, except where a reasonable case is made regarding a member’s conflict of interest.

The Inquiry Report of the ICC, including its decision and recommendations, and reasons for arriving at such decision, shall be communicated to the concerned parties and the employer, in writing, at the earliest and in any case within 7 days of completion of the investigation.

The ICC will make every effort to complete its investigation within ninety days of a report of sexual harassment.

If the allegations against the respondent are proved to be true, the ICC shall also recommend the penalties or corrective action that may be taken against him/her to the employer.

The employer shall act on the recommendation of the ICC within a period of 30 days from the date of the receipt of the Inquiry Report, unless an appeal against the findings is filed within that time by either party.

8. What protection and interim relief is the aggrieved person entitled to during the course of investigating a complaint?

The identities of the parties, witnesses, statements and other evidence obtained in the course of inquiry process, recommendations of the ICC, and action taken by the employer will be protected as confidential material, and never published or made known to public or media.

The ICC shall also take note of the inherent power asymmetry and/or the vulnerability of the complainant in such cases and take steps to ensure that the complainant is not subjected to a hostile environment during the investigation.

9. Does making a complaint bar the aggrieved person from obtaining relief under criminal law, or resorting to another legal recourse?

No.

The aggrieved person can alternatively choose to file a criminal case under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and/or file a civil suit. Depending on the facts of the incident, sections 294, 354A, or 509 of the IPC may be invoked. Further a suit claiming damages on grounds of mental anguish and harassment can be filed under tort law.

CIS is legally obligated to provide assistance to the aggrieved person in filing such complaints, should they choose to do so. The aggrieved person shall need to approach the police, if they wish to file a criminal case.