The resolution moved by Boby M Sekhar and as many as 117 other members seeking the constitution of an Internal Complaints Committee (“ICC”) as mandated under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“POSH Act”) to address and redress cases of sexual harassment against women in the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association (“KHCAA”), was unanimously passed.
The resolution highlighted how the most saddening of hurdles that a woman could go through during her professional life is that of being sexually harassed.
Sexual harassment at work is not only against the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to which India is a signatory, and the principles of equality and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of India but is equally detrimental to one’s mental health and performance in a professional setting. The number and contribution of female lawyers has grown tremendously, however, they continue to be subject to such harassment and abuse. Further, the Constitutional right of gender equality and right to practice profession only strengthens the need to have a firm mechanism for the purposes of protection, prevention, and redressal of such complaints.
Among the many objectives of the KHCAA, one is to protect the interests of the legal fraternity. As such, the Executive Committee of the KHCAA is entrusted with the duty and power to initiate disciplinary proceedings against a member who has been alleged to have conducted himself in an ill manner, against the very interest of the fraternity. In such case, the Disciplinary Committee may even choose to remove the member from the Association.
Now, although the KHCAA has taken all reasonable steps for the protection and welfare of the members of the Association, it is yet to establish a permanent ICC which would deal with complaints of sexual harassment in a more streamlined and firm manner. Acknowledging the increasing involvement of women in the legal fraternity, constitution of an ICC under the POSH Act is much needed. Such a system will reassure women and give them the confidence to speak up and break the shackles of workplace exploitation.
Hence, the Association is set to constitute an ICC, formulate a comprehensive mechanism for inquiry and action against allegations of sexual harassment, and the Executive Committee of KHCAA was also authorized to revise the Rules and Regulations, 1971 of the KHCAA for the effective implementation of the POSH Act.