The National Commission for Woman (NCW) informed the high court on Wednesday that in many companies the committee to probe allegations of 'sexual harassment at workplace' was being constituted on an ad-hoc basis (when the complaint is filed) whereas it should be a standing committee that reports yearly to the Central government, as per the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.
A division bench of justices VM Kanade and AK Menon was informed by advocate Sunip Sen appearing for NCW that "the commission wants to better the future of women with regard to sexual harassment at workplace."
The suggestion was made during the hearing of a petition filed by accounting firm KPMG challenging the NCW summons issued to it on a complaint filed by a former employee, who alleged harassment in 2006.
NCW, arguing on whether it had the jurisdiction to look into individual cases, held that "the issue is not of today but what could have been done then and whether now companies are following the Vishaka Guidelines in letter and spirit."
To this, Indu Malothra representing KPMG contended: "The NCW has no jurisdiction to look into individual cases. It's a body that is only supposed to recommend. Further, the constitution of a committee as per Vishaka Guidelines would be futile as employees against whom allegations are made are not working with the company anymore and so disciplinary action cannot be initiated. Further, the complainant has already filed a criminal case which is pending."
The court, however, limited its scope to whether the NCW had jurisdiction to look into individual cases, and after giving a chance to the complainant to argue on the limited point, adjourned the hearing to May 8.
The court had recently stayed the NCW summons issued to the company on September 13, 2013. In late 2007, the complainant sent legal notices to her senior colleagues, including KPMG India senior partner and head of its financial services, Vikram Uttam Singh, for sexual harassment. Singh was later arrested by the Mumbai police. The complainant had worked with the firm in 2005-06; her services were terminated after being associated with the company for 14 months.
After this, the woman approached the Maharashtra State Woman's Commission, the NCW, Cyber Cell and the National Human Rights Commission with her plea. The NM Joshi Marg police charged three officials of the company under relevant sections of the IPC. The trial is pending with a lower court.