The Bombay High Court imposed provisions to preserve the anonymity of proceedings involving workplace sexual harassment of women. The high court regulations in the case of P v. A & Ors.1 (“PoSH Confidentiality Guidelines”) address, among other things, how such incidents should be addressed and dealt with; how judgments should be documented, rendered, and conveyed; and the preventative measures to follow when reporting such issues, as well as by the mainstream press.
Prevention of Sexual Harassment: The courts will use the PoSH Confidentiality Guidelines as a functional procedure. The goal is to conceal the parties’ identities from unintentional exposure and prevent sexual harassment. The Bombay High Court’s PoSH Confidentiality Guidelines are the minimum that courts must observe and are subject to adjustments or alterations.
Sexual Harassment Law: One of the critical purposes of the PoSH Act 2013 has been to offer an efficient grievance redressal procedure for women who have been victims of workplace sexual harassment. However, due to the fear of having to sacrifice their privacy, which might result in embarrassment, anxiety, humiliation, and dread, many women tend to take a back seat whenever it comes to identifying incidences of workplace sexual harassment.
Despite the secrecy above restriction, as stated by the Bombay High Court, there have been no defined norms in such instances thus far, frequently resulting in a scenario in which the parties’ confidentiality was jeopardized. As a result, it had become necessary for the Court to establish specific rules in this regard.
The PoSH at work Confidentiality Guidelines is thus a significant step forward since they will serve as a warning to the authorities and the company, ICC participants, eyewitnesses, and the entities closely engaged in the complaint of sexual harassment at work. The ruling of the Bombay High Court also emphasizes the need for employers to adopt equivalent procedures to ensure that sexual harassment at workplace accusations are investigated and handled discreetly, without exposing the identities of those involved. Because of the PoSH at work Confidentiality Guidelines, the parties may now feel more confident utilizing the court system.
Purpose of POSH Policy
Here we explained few critical pieces of information regarding the purpose and significance of PoSH at work Policy in India.
Offering a safe and healthy work environment at work:
The PoSH Act 2013 holds companies accountable for making their workplaces safe for their employees. In this regard, they must take precautions to protect their employees from both employees and non-employees who may access the workplace (delivery boys, for example).
An in-depth investigation into all sexual harassment at workplace allegations:
Within 90 days after the complaint’s filing, the IC/LC, as the case may be, is obligated to undertake an investigation into every allegation of sexual harassment at the workplace under the terms of the service rules relevant to the respondent. Following the conclusion of an investigation, the IC/LC is obligated to submit a report outlining its findings. If the charges of sexual harassment at the workplace proven, the IC/LC may suggest that the employer or the District Officer prosecute the accused.
Organization of awareness and education training programs At frequent intervals to familiarise staff with the Act’s provisions:
Businesses are obligated under the PoSH Act 2013 to provide periodic awareness workshops for all employees so that they are aware of the Act’s obligations, the firm’s grievance redress processes, and the consequences of engaging in sexual harassment activities. Such workshops/training sessions must be organized by persons who are POSH sensitization specialists or have prior experience.
Sexual Harassment Under the Act
According to Section 2(n) of the Act, sexual harassment comprises the following unpleasant acts:
- Sexual advances and physical contact
- Demand for sexual favours.
- Presenting sexually charged statements.
- Displaying pornography
- Sexually touched, physical activity
These actions may be considered undesirable if the lady exhibits discomfort during their performance or refuses to consent. Additionally, if either preceding acts or practices are present, the scenarios listed below may represent sexual harassment.
- The implicit or outright assurance of favourable treatment in the workplace.
- An implied threat regarding one’s current or future work position.
- Interference with work or the creation of an intimidating, unpleasant, or hostile work environment
India’s POSH Act Guidelines
The preceding instructions are included in the PoSH Confidentiality Guidelines:
Identification of both the parties must be kept secret:
- There would be no reference to any PII inside the document, including parties’ names, email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses.
Hearing Protocol and handling data:
- Only counsel and litigants will be allowed to attend proceedings. All other personnel (including clerks, peons, and others) must leave the Court, except the Court Master/Associate or Sheristedar and the stenographer or anyone giving secretarial support.
- Inspection of the order shall be permitted only by an Advocate on Record with a valid vakalatnama.
- It is completely banned to record any aspect of the proceedings.
- Any order to be made public will require a particular order from the Court.
- Without the Court’s express permission, both sides and all parties, attorneys, and witnesses are prohibited from exposing the contents of any order, judgment, or file to the media or publishing any such material in any mode or manner, including social media.
Lack of compliance with the judge’s terms of confidentiality and those imposed by the media and any effort to record or transcribe any portion of the proceedings would be considered contempt of Court and penalized accordingly.
The PoSH Act aims to build a viable complaint management mechanism and devise a set wherein women feel assured in reporting sexual harassment at work. While the Sexual Harassment Law achieves that goal admirably in various ways, confidentiality has been an important component that is frequently overlooked, particularly during litigation.
Although there are compelling reasons to safeguard the anonymity of the parties, given critical and private nature of such situations. It remains to be seen how this may be balanced against the requirement for oversight and openness.
Furthermore, because the PoSH Act is a new statute, employers and ICC members have been closely following the rules established by various courts in such instances when interpreting sections of the PoSH Act, which may no longer be practicable in light of the PoSH Confidentiality Guidelines. MUDS Management is India’s prime consultancy that provides POSH Training for Employees service online and offline.