The government has reconstituted its panel to strengthen the legal and institutional frameworks to deal with and prevent sexual harassment at the workplace days after a report by The Quint revealed that the committee had been dissolved.
The reconstituted panel will be helmed by Home Minister Amit Shah and comprise of ministers Nirmala Sitharaman (Finance Minister), Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (HRD Minister) and Smriti Irani (Women and Child Development Minister), as members.
A statement issued on Wednesday stated: "The government has reconstituted the Group of Ministers on Sexual Harassment at Workplace with members -- Amit Shah, Home Affairs Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister, 'Nishank', Human Resource Development Minister, and Smriti Irani, Women and Child Development Minister," it said. The GoM will continue to be given administrative support by the Home Ministry, it added.
There is no clarity yet on whether the panel has been constituted keeping in mind the Vishaka guidelines and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which mandates that panels formed to take action against sexual harassment at the workplace must be headed by a woman, have at least two other members who are women and have an external member from a non-governmental organisation or associations working on womenâ€™s issues.
The GoM was reconstituted three days after The Quint reported that they filed RTIs to investigate the contribution of the Committee, which was formed in October last year, to the countryâ€™s Me Too movement. The response from the government stated: â€śIt is to inform you that with the constitution of the seventeenth Lok Sabha and formation of new government, said Committee is no longer in existence.â€ť
The Centre had constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) on October 24, 2018, a week after MJ Akbar, accused of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by around 30 women, stepped down as the Minister of State in the External Affairs Ministry in the previous Narendra Modi-led government. It comprised of then Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the then Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, then Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi and Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.
An official press release had at the time stated that the GoM will recommend action required for effective implementation of the existing provisions as well as for strengthening the existing legal and institutional frameworks for addressing issues related to sexual harassment at the workplace. The release had also added that the Group of Ministers will, within 3 months of its constitution, examine the existing provisions for the safety of women, including those mentioned above, and recommend further measures required to strengthen and make them more effective.