Internal Complaints Committee Members work on Applications
Consequences of Improper internal compliance committee Constitution
The internal compliance committee is responsible for conducting impartial investigations into cases of sexual harassment and providing appropriate redress within the timeframe. If the internal complaints committee members are not set up according to POSH law, questions about the validity and objectivity of the verdicts may arise. There may also be serious legal ramifications. In some cases, the court has dissolved internal complaints committee members that were not formed in accordance with the Act. A newly formed IC can even recommend that cases be re-investigated by the court. Furthermore, the Act states that noncompliance can result in severe penalties such as:
- Rs. 50,000 fine will be imposed.
- On repeating the offence, the penalty will be doubled.
- Deletion, withdrawal, or non-renewal of a business licence registration.
Working on the internal compliance committee
Let’s take a closer look at how the internal compliance committee works. We’ll start by learning the terms complainant and respondent, which will appear several times throughout this document.
Complainant: A complainant is a woman who files a sexual harassment complaint against an employee of your company. The complainant does not have to be a member of your organisation. Anyone can file a complaint, including employees, partners, visitors, interns, and others.
Respondent: A respondent is a person who is accused in the complaint.
The ICC committee members can only investigate a complaint if the respondent is a company employee, such as peers, managers, interns, contract workers, or consultants. If the complaint is made against such an employee of another organisation or an outsider/third party, the POSH law requires the use of other processes.
Internal Committee and Principles of Natural Justice
The POSH Act requires that both the appellant and the complainant be given a fair right to showcase their sides of the story, and that the complainant be permitted to cross-examine the witness testimony in the sexual harassment case.
The POSH Act requires that the members of the internal compliance committee (IC) follow the ‘Principles of Natural Justice’ while the investigation is underway. It’s difficult to draw a line around the term “Principles of Natural Justice” because the POSH Act doesn’t define or explain it. As a result, the application of natural justice principles will be determined by the context and situation in which the icc committee members find themselves.
Having said that, there are tenets for “Principles of Natural Justice” that are universally accepted. Let’s take a look at them quickly.
Natural Justice Principles’ Tenets
- No one should be made a judge in their own case or be allowed to rule without bias: The decision-making authority must be made up of fair and impartial individuals who act without prejudice or bias. Bias can be conscious or unconscious, stemming from preconceived notions, perceptions, or stereotypes.
- Hear the other side: This is the rule that both sides must be heard in order for no one to be condemned without being heard.
The Indian Supreme court has connected Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which makes reference to the “Right to Personal Liberty,” to “Principles of Natural Justice”. In a number of decisions, the Supreme Court has stated unequivocally that the investigation procedure must meet the conditions of fairness and reasonableness. Any investigation process that goes beyond the bounds of fairness and reasonableness will be deemed a violation of the Natural Justice Principles.
Receiving a Complaint
A sexual harassment complaint document acquired from a complainant vs any employee should be evaluated by the internal compliance review panel. Internal complaints panel members must provide six replicas of the claim, as well as any relevant documentation (if any) and a list of witness statements. The appellant may present the allegation to any IC member, who must then transmit it to the Presiding Officer inside 3 days of receipt.
Representatives of the internal complaints committee can engage if the accident took place not just in office facility or office venue, but also in the public.
- Every other location in which the firm’s system will operate
- All organization-related activities that take place somewhere other than the firm’s head office.
- Any community, corporate, or other incident where an employee’s habit or remarks may have a detrimental effect on the worksite or workforce connections.
- An alleged sexual harassment incident that actually happened during or after office hours.
- Any position managed to visit by the Employee arising out of or even during the scope of employment, which would include travel given by the firm for such a journey Sexual misconduct whatsoever on social media sites all through and outside of business hours
As a result, any sexual harassment that occurs at work, including during office picnics, offsite visits, farewell parties, conferences, or through mediums like WhatsApp, email, or SMS, will be considered a workplace incident.
Only when a woman registers a complaint letter inside of 90 days of the incident’s date of issuance can the IC start investigating it. If there have been several occurrences of sexual harassment, a grievance can be lodged with the IC within 90 days of the most recent incident. If the appellant seems unable to lodge a complaint inside of 90 days, the internal compliance committee may extend the period for another 90 days at its judgement.
If an aggrieved woman is still unable to file a formal complaint associated with physical or psychical incapacity, her legal heir or any other person apt with the aggrieved woman’s written consent may do so.
The claimant’s allegation must be communicated with the defendant inside of 7 days of receipt. The defendant then has 10 days from the date they managed to get hold of the accusation to respond.
After the internal compliance committee receives the complaint, it is up to them to complete their investigation and resolve the problem. The internal complaints committee members are required by the POSH Act to complete the investigation within 90 days. The IC can try to resolve the dispute between the complainant and the respondent before starting an investigation. When it comes to conciliation, keep the following in mind:
- It can only be started if the complainant requests it in writing.
- Nor the party can indeed be pressured to reach an agreement.
- Such conciliation cannot be used to reach a monetary agreement.
- If a settlement is reached, the members of the internal complaints committee must document it and forward it to the appropriate organisation for action, as outlined in the conciliation report.
- Members of the internal complaints committee might provide duplicates of the documented settlement to the Complainant and Respondent.
- If a resolution is reached, the representatives of the internal complaints committee would not be needed to undertake any further inquiry.
If the Complainant believes the Respondent is not abiding by the terms of the Settlement Agreement or that the organisation has taken no action, the Complainant may submit a written request to the IC for an investigation into the complaint.
Inquiry and Report
If the complainant refuses to participate in conciliation or claims that the respondent has violated any term or condition of the settlement reached during conciliation, the IC should open an investigation into the complaint. The Presiding Officer will preside over the first deliberations of the investigation. The internal compliance committee will have the same authority as a civil court during most of the inquiry in the following categories:
- Both parties are summoned one by one, their attendance is enforced, and they are examined under oath.
- obtaining information from witnesses or documents
- Take down the statements and signatures of all those who appear in front of them.
To make sure that procedural fairness guidelines are applied, the internal compliance committee must perform a POSH-compliant investigation and cross-examination of stakeholders and testimonies. When either the appellant or the complainant desires to cross-examine the witness statements, they can do so utilising documented responses to questions and via IC. No other party may cross-examine the witness statements directly.
It should be noted that all IC proceedings should be documented and endorsed by both parties and IC members.
Then what would the internal compliance committee do if neither the complainant nor the respondent shows up for the trial?
The internal compliance committee has the authority to discontinue the inquiry litigation if the appellant fails to appear for 3 successive court proceedings empaneled by the Presiding Officer. If the appellant fails to show up for three (three) successive proceedings convened by the Presiding Officer, the IC has the authority to rule ex-parte. Such a temination or ex-parte order should be released only after providing the Complainant or Respondent, as the instance may be, with 15 (fifteen) days’ written notice.
ICC committee members are being trained.
Being an IC member entails a high level of responsibility because they are vital to the institution’s safety and prestige. The inability of IC members to effectively handle complaints is one of the major challenges for organisations. For a long time, an employee of a multinational corporation committed suicide after being accused of sexual harassment. The incident had serious ramifications for both the IC and the company. This incident demonstrates how a poorly trained IC can cost an organisation and its employees a lot of money.
There may also be difficult cases that the icc committee members agonises over because it is unsure how to handle them. According to studies, many internal committee members lack the necessary training to effectively handle sexual harassment complaints. It is crucial for IC leaders to join pertinent laws and legal terms such as worksite, staff, and others; the physiological influence of becoming a suspect or alleged; the procedure of undertaking a fair investigation; and a variety of other topics. Regular training is required to empower the members of the icc committee. Examine our IC members’ extensive, interactive, and engaging eLearning training.
It is true that if the compliance with internal commission is fully established, you may be able to avoid demerit points and potential repercussions. In a corporation, however, the internal compliance committee has far more role and responsibility. They are responsible for developing and fostering the environment through skills training and community outreach. Representatives of the icc review panel can function as a pole and cruising force in the creation of a respectful workplace by serving as role models.