As we all know, the PoSH Act, 2013 is a powerful law introduced by the Indian legislative to safeguard women against sexual harassment in the workplace, which creates a mechanism for redressal complaints while ensuring that there are no false or malicious charges being filed against individuals.
While this is a highly effective and powerful act, like every good thing, it has its downsides, which come in the light of False complaints in this case. Many tend to misuse this Act to their benefit for personal gains.
The Internal Committee, which is the body responsible for receiving and redressing sexual harassment complaints in an organization, provides support to all the women who face issues at their workplace; however, support and punishment should not be provided at the cost of an innocent individual’s good faith.
Let’s understand what a false complaint and its implications are.
What is a False Complaint
A false complaint, as the name suggests, is one where the Internal Committee or the Local Committee concludes that the complaint made against the respondent is malicious or the complainant deliberately made a false complaint that is not true, to begin with, or the complainant has provided forged or misleading evidence. In such cases, the Act suggests the IC suggests strict action prescribed under the various subsections.
How does an IC decide if the complaint so filed is false?
IC, an unprejudiced and unbiased authority, treats every complaint with the same level of sincerity. Even if they find any complaint questionable, they consider it impartial and neutral. It is pertinent for the IC to find any evidence supporting the fact that the complaint was made with malicious intent and does not have any truth behind it, after which it can lay suitable punishment on the complainant.
Section 14(1) of the POSH Act
“Provided further that the malicious intent on the part of the complainant shall be established after an inquiry by the procedure prescribed before any action is recommended.”
It’s crucial to remember that failing to establish a complaint or offer appropriate proof does not mean the complaint was false.
What are the Penalties for false complaints?
The false complainant would be required to write a letter of apology to the wrongfully accused individual. A stern warning will be issued to the false complainant, and the offender will receive a public reprimand and a sentence of imprisonment.
The False complaint’s advancement will be halted or cancelled. Any pay raise for the False complainant would be cancelled or placed on hold. Bonuses and increments will be taken away from them.
The false complainant will be obliged to seek counselling to determine what motivated them to file false complaints with malice.
How can organizations prevent these false complaints?
Include harsh penalties and large fines in the organization’s POSH Policy for fraudulent complaints.
Regular POSH training should include a discussion of the consequences of filing fraudulent complaints. Ascertain that personnel understands the distinction between an unfounded complaint and a false claim.
IC can utilize case studies to demonstrate how Indian courts have dealt with fraudulent complaints during small group discussions. As you may be aware, courts will impose far harsher penalties on false complaints than the organization.
IC will undoubtedly guide the complainant through the investigation process when accepting complaints. IC can also explain how fraudulent complaints will be handled at this time.
Inappropriate workplace behaviour must not be accepted under any circumstances. The same can be said regarding the misuse of support systems within a company. Sexual harassment and false allegations can be averted largely if the organization can deliver a strong message that damaging a person in any form will not be accepted.
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