SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

Definition: 

The law applies to: 

  1. All Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs)in India.
  2. Employees and students of HEIs.
  3. This Act is Gender Neutral i.e. this Act is against all gender based violence perpetrated against employees and students of all sexes recognizing that primarily women employees and students and some male students and students of the third gender are vulnerable to many forms of sexual harassment and humiliation and exploitation. 

When can one complain under this Act?

If a student or an employee is subjected to sexual harassment within the jurisdiction of the HEI then he/ she can file a complaint under this Act.

What places come under the jurisdiction as Higher Educational Institutions? 

  1. Any department, organisation, establishment, institution, office, branch or unit which is established, owned, controlled wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the HEIs. 

  2. Any sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not, used for training, sports or other activities in HEIs.
  3. Any place visited by the employee or student arising out of or during the course of employment or study including authorized transportation for work/ study related journeys undertaken through the HEI. 

Who can complain under this Act?

  1. Employees or students of all genders (i.e. male/ female/ third) subject to sexual harassment in HEIs can be identified as a victim under this Act.
  2. Employee means a trainee, apprentice, interns, volunteers, teacher assistants, research assistants, whether employed or not, including those involved in field studies, projects, short-visits and camp.
  3. Student means a person duly admitted and pursuing a programme of study either through regular mode/ distance mode, including short-term training programmes in a HEI;
this includes students who are in the process of taking admission into the HEI or students who are taking part in activities conducted within the 

Who can the complaint and against who under this Act? 

  1. The offender may be an employee or a student of the HEI.
  2. The complaint can also be filed against a third party for sexual harassment.
    “Third Party Harassment” refers to a situation where sexual harassment occurs as a result of an act or omission by any third party or outsider, who is not an employee or a student of the HEI, but a visitor to the HEI in some other capacity or for some other purpose or reason.

 What is recognised as Sexual Harassment in Higher Educational Institutions under this Act?

Sexual Harassment under this Act means anyone or more of the following unwelcome acts or behaviour: 

  • Physical contact or advances
  • A demand or request for sexual favours
  • Making sexually coloured remarks
  • Showing pornography
  • Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
  • Occurrence of or persistent unwanted conduct with sexual undertones which demeans, humiliates or creates a hostile and intimidating environment
  • Inducing submission by actual or threatened adverse consequences. 

If any act is done under the following circumstances that would also count as Sexual Harassment at the Higher Educational Institution. 

  • Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment
  • Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in employment
  • Implied or explicit threat about the present or future employment status
  • Creates an intimidating/ hostile/ offensive learning environment
  • Humiliating treatment likely to affect health, safety, dignity, of physical integrity of the person concerned. 

Punishments: 

  1. If the offender is an employee, the offender found guilty of sexual harassment shall be punished in accordance with the service rules of the HEI.
  2. If the offender is a student, depending upon the severity of the offence, the HEI may :
  • Withhold privileges of the student such as access to the library, auditoria, halls of residence, transportation, scholarships, allowances, and identity card;
  • Suspend or restrict entry into the campus for a specific period;
  • Expel and strike off name from the rolls of the institution, including denial of readmission, if the offence so warrants;
  • Award reformative punishments like mandatory counselling and, or, performance of community services. 
    1. The aggrieved person is entitled to the payment of compensation. The HEI shall issue direction for payment of the compensation recommended by the ICC and accepted by the Executive Authority, which shall be recovered from the offender.

 The compensation payable shall be determined on the basis of 

  • mental trauma, pain, suffering and distress caused to the aggrieved person;
  • the loss of career opportunity due to the incident of sexual harassment;
  • the medical expenses incurred by the victim for physical, psychiatric treatment;
  • the income and status of the alleged perpetrator and victim
  • the feasibility of such payment in lump sum or in instalments. 

 Action against frivolous complaint

To ensure that the Act to protect employees and students from sexual harassment does not get misused, provisions against false or malicious complaints have to be made and publicised within all HEIs.
If the ICC concludes that the allegations made were false, malicious or the complaint was made knowing it to be untrue, or forged or misleading information has been provided during the inquiry, the complainant shall be liable to be punished.

  • If complainant is an employee, the complainant will be punished in accordance with the service rules of the HEI
  • If the complainant is a student, depending upon the severity of the offence, the HEI may :
    1. Withhold privileges of the student such as access to the library, auditoria, halls of residence, transportation, scholarships, allowances, and identity card;
    2. Suspend or restrict entry into the campus for a specific period;
    3. Expel and strike off name from the rolls of the institution, including denial of readmission, if the offence so warrants;
    4. Award reformative punishments like mandatory counselling and, or, performance of community services. 

 If witnesses called upon, are found to have given false evidence or produced forged documents, they too shall be subject to the punishments mentioned above.


NOTE - The mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof need not attract action against the complainant under this section.