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Kerala High Court Advocates Association to set up internal committee on sexual harassment under POSH Act

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The Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association (KHCAA) has decided to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for women under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

The decision followed the Kerala high Court’s order on a bunch of petitions, passed on Thursday by a Division Bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly.

The High Court had ruled that the production unit of every film industry should maintain a local complaints committee, if the number of workers engaged were more than 10.

However, the Bench exempted political parties from formulating such a committee, stating that the political parties, which do not maintain any employer-employee relation with their members and which are not carrying with any private venture or undertaking, to be described as a ‘workplace’ under Section 2(o)(ii) of POSH Act, 2013, were not liable to form an ICC.

The Bench observed that such a committee will give a sense of security and confidence to the women workers employed in a production unit, which in turn will protect their dignity, and make the right to life and personal liberty of women in film industry more meaningful and fruitful.

The KHCAA said it will convene an Extra Ordinary General Body Meeting on March 22 to consider the issue.

The resolution, proposed by Advocate Boby M Sekhar and 117 others, brings to light the fact that the number of female lawyers and the contribution of women in the legal field have increased substantially over the years. However, women in the legal profession face the same hurdles as in any other workplace, which includes sexual harassment and abuse.
The POSH Act mandates the constitution of an ICC at the institutional level for prevention, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment at workplace. The ICC has the power to initiate settlements between the parties through conciliation proceedings and if not settled, to initiate an inquiry into the matter.

It was contended that even though the KHCAA was formed to protect and serve the interests of legal fraternity, no effective steps have been taken till date for the formation of a permanent ICC, which could address the grievances of women lawyers.

The Association further resolved to formulate a comprehensive mechanism for inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment and take appropriate disciplinary action against the members found guilty.

It also proposed to authorise the Executive Committee of KHCAA to make necessary changes and amendments in the Rules and Regulations, 1971 of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association for the effective implementation of provisions of the POSH Act.

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