WFI’s ‘Sexual Harassment Panel’ Flouts POSH Act: Can A Sexual Harassment Panel Be Headed By A Man?
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WFI’s ‘Sexual Harassment Panel’ Flouts POSH Act: Can A Sexual Harassment Panel Be Headed By A Man?

Additionally, the presiding officer must be nominated from any other workplace of the same company and another department or organization if the other offices or administrative units of the workplace do not have a senior-level female employee.

Did you know that every employer of a workplace with more than 10 employees is required to establish an "internal complaints committee" to handle complaints under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal), 2013, or POSH Act? Keep reading to know more!

As pressure from India's top wrestlers on BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh to resign as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India due to allegations of sexual harassment grows, a closer examination of the federation's committee to handle such complaints reveals several violations of standards.

According to the federation's website, it only has an "Ethics Commission" to handle matters relating to "ethical practises and fair play in sports, including the elimination of doping activities, match-fixing, falsification of age, and sexual harassment of women in sports." Although it is referred to as the "sexual harassment committee," it also handles other matters in addition to allegations of sexual harassment.

Even this committee does not meet all of the standards outlined in the POSH Act as there are at least three significant infractions: the group is being managed by a man rather than a senior female employee; there isn't an external member; and there is only one woman, as opposed to the legal requirement of 50% female strength.

No ICC Member At WFI

The sexual harassment committee is now the only body in the federation that examines sexual harassment, according to Olympian Jai Prakash, who is also the joint secretary of the organisation and the convener of the committee. According to him, there is no ICC (Internal Complain Committee) at the WFI(Wrestling Federation Of India). When asked how frequently the committee receives complaints, he replied that he couldn't immediately recall the date of the most recent one.

Kaiserganj MP Brij Bhushan Singh, who was elected unopposed for a third consecutive term as the WFI president in 2019, has earlier denied all the sexual harassment allegations.

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) previously sent letters to the ministry of youth affairs and sports and the police in response to claims of sexual harassment made by the top wrestlers in the nation. Additionally, copies of the grievances filed by the female wrestlers against the WFI president and instructors were sought.

According to Esha Shekhar, an independent legal consultant who focuses on POSH laws. “If the committee is not made as per requirements of the law, it is a violation. The requirements that are not followed in this case are very essential. And “The rationale behind having a woman presiding officer is also to ensure that organizations have women in senior management. The senior women employee also brings a sense of maturity to the committee. Having an external member on the committee is essential to prevent bias.”

The "Ethics Commission'' of the WFI is run by VN Prasood, the federation's secretary general. Jai Prakash, Vishal Singh, Debendra Kumar Sahoo, and Dhyanchand Khel award Sakshi Malik are also members of the executive committee. One of the wrestlers who is objecting is Malik.The presiding officer must be a woman who holds a senior position, according to the first criterion listed in the POSH Act, 2013, in the chapter on the constitution of the internal complaints committee.

The law also states that the presiding officer shall be nominated from other offices or administrative units in the absence of such a representation.

Additionally, the presiding officer must be nominated from any other workplace of the same company, as well as from another department or organization, if the other offices or administrative units of the workplace do not have a senior-level female employee. One of the members has to be from an NGO or association committed to the cause of women's welfare, or someone familiar with issues related to sexual harassment.

'Workplace' Definition Under Law

The law also says that at least half of the total members of such committees shall be women. In the WFI’s case, at least two or three members should be women. The second point of Chapter 1 of the law defines “workplace” as “any department, organization, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate government or the local authority or a government company or a corporation or a co-operative society”.

It also covers private sector organizations, society, trust, NGO, hospitals and nursing homes. It mentions “sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating to it”. Hence yes, the federation is covered under the POSH Act.

As per the standing counsel of the Delhi HC, “If the WFI receives grants from the government, it cannot claim to not be a workplace under the sexual harassment Act. If they themselves say this is the sexual harassment committee, it is bound to be in compliance with section 4 of the Act. When the law itself says the committee should have a higher number of women, the chairperson should be a woman, and there should be an external member, the idea is to ensure objectivity and comfort for the complainant. Even if the association is not strictly in non-compliance, it is ethically in violation. Because the law is establishing a benchmark of what constitutes a fair and independent committee and your committee is not meeting that benchmark at all, that means effectively you don't have a committee,”

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