The Government of India, through the Department of Personnel & Training of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (“DoPT”), published the Office Memorandum F. No. 11013/2/2014-Estt (A-III), dated 16th July, 2015 stating that a guide on “Steps for Conduct of Inquiry in complaints of Sexual Harassment” (“Step Guide”) has been formulated laying down the procedure that must be followed while handling complaints related to sexual harassment.
The Step Guide is in consonance with Rule 14 (2) of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965 which lays down that the ICC of each Ministry or Department shall hold inquiry in a matter of sexual harassment as far as practicable in accordance with the procedure lain down in the Rules.
The DoPT Office Memorandum clarifies that the Step Guide is intended to give details with respect to the procedure prescribed in the Rules and is not intended to be a substitute for reference to the Rules and instructions. It says that members of ICCs and others who are required to deal with such inquiries should acquaint themselves with Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, and instructions issued thereunder.
The Step Guide provides for detailed procedure on how an inquiry must be conducted. While most of the provisions are in line with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and the Rules and are a blend of the two, an important provision prescribed in the Step Guide seems to be that Disciplinary Authority may dispense with inquiry under Rule I9 (ii), and action may be taken without the inquiry when the Disciplinary Authority concludes that it is not reasonably practicable to hold such an inquiry. It states that the circumstances leading to such a conclusion may exist either before the inquiry is commenced or may develop in the course of the inquiry. The situations that may give rise to such a conclusion by Disciplinary Authority are also provided in the Step Guide.
Please click here to view the Office Memorandum dated 16th July, 2015.
– Adv. Shivangi Prasad – Corporate Lawyer, External Member & Trainer, Head – Legal & Compliance, Partner POSH at Work