The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Collectors of all 32 districts in the State to file individual reports within four weeks on steps taken by them to constitute the Local Complaints Committee (LCC), a district-level statutory body empowered to deal with complaints of sexual harassment in private establishments with less than 10 employees, or in cases where the complaints had been lodged against the employer itself.
The first Division Bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M. Sundar passed the order on a public interest litigation petition filed by R. Karuppusamy of Sathyamangalam in Erode district. The judges also wanted to know whether an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for dealing with such complaints had been established in private establishments, including mills, factories and other workplaces in all the 32 districts.
In his affidavit, the petitioner pointed out that ICC as well as LCC should necessarily be constituted as per Sections 4 and 6 respectively of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013. However, most of the mills and factories that had employed women in large numbers were yet to constitute the ICCs thereby curtailing the right of those women to seek statutory remedy, he claimed.
Armed with information obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005, he pointed out that even LCCs had not been constituted in many districts though it was the duty of the Collector concerned to form them. Seeking a consequential relief, the petitioner also sought for a direction to the government to register and monitor all hostels run for girls and working women in the State in accordance with the Tamil Nadu Hostels and Homes for Women and Children (Regulation) Act of 2014.
During the course of hearing of the case, Government Pleader (in-charge) T.N. Rajagopalan said the case had been filed on the basis of information obtained in 2015 and therefore he must be given time to ascertain the progress that had been made by the officials since then. Replying to it, the petitioner’s counsel P. Selvi said it was not easy for her client to obtain information even under the RTI Act and therefore the government must be ordered to place the latest facts before the court.
Accepting her request, the judges directed the Collectors to file individual reports within a month and adjourned further hearing of the case to December 11.