Citing the allegations of sexual harassment under India's #MeToo movement, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the National Commission for Women (NCW) to take action against organisations that do not have redressal systems for such complaints.
Women who complain to the NCW, an organisation's internal complaints committee (ICC) or to the head of an organisation should be considered whistle blowers and given protection from harassment by authorities or their superiors, Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.
Taking note of actor Tanushree Dutta's accusations of sexual harassment, he also said there are no systems in various organisations like the film industry to receive complaints of sexual exploitation or harassment.
Ms Dutta kickstarted the #MeToo movement in India, accusing actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. Mr Patekar has denied the allegations.
The CIC was hearing a case of not providing information to an RTI applicant, who had sought details of an inquiry into her complaint of sexual harassment at the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC).
The woman's husband had filed the application with the NCW that forwarded it to the DVC. Not getting any information, he approached the commission.
The CIC imposed a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 on Central Public Information Officer, DVC, Anshuman Mandal, while hearing the petition of the victim who was denied information about the inquiry into her complaint.
Mr Acharyulu directed the corporation to give a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the harassment caused to the victim, for causing loss of her peace, troubling her with transfers, and causing her to suffer detriment of right to work and right to life by its lethargy in not acting on her complaint.
The commission also pulled up the NCW, to which the victim had approached with her RTI application, for simply forwarding to the DVC.
"The NCW and Ministry of Women and Child Development have a role, they cannot abdicate this constitutional responsibility of protecting the rights of women from being violated because of non-conducive atmosphere which prevents victims from even reporting and lack of system that facilitates criminal celebrities to enjoy undue immunity," he said.
Mr Acharyulu recorded his "appreciation" for the ministry for contemplating to set up a committee of senior judicial and legal persons to look into issues that are coming out of the #MeToo movement.
"The Commission feels that the NCW should use its powers to consider the media statements of sexual harassment as complaints, as an extra-courage is required to speak to media which gives huge publicity than to write a complaint which silently reaches to NCW without anybody noticing it," he said.
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