Delhi-based think tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) has served a legal notice to Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development seeking imposition of penalty of Rs. 50,000 against heads of BJP, Congress and CPI(M).
The notice states that complaints regarding sexual harassment in #MeToo campaign emerged because the internal mechanisms were not present as prescribed by the law.
Political parties are the biggest private organisations in the country claiming membership of crores, but have not complied with the law which requires compliance by any organisation with minimum 10 workers. In absence of an Internal Complaint Committee, the victims do not even have a proper complaint redressal mechanism. Political leaders are mostly connected with the state governments and have been known to influence the police. Hence, it becomes difficult for victims to approach the police.
The notice, of which Business Today has a copy, reads, "There are 7 national, 59 states, and more than 2000 registered unrecognised political parties in India. Most of them promise for security of women in their manifestos and campaigns. However, many of them do not have the Internal Complaint Committee as required under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and the Handbook prescribed by the Central Government".
Sent through Advocate Virag Gupta, who is also co-founder of CASC, the notice states that "BJP, Congress and CPI(M) do not have an Internal Complaints Committee".
Regarding the other political parties, CASC has sought that the Ministry should issue a Show Cause Notice asking why any action wasn't taken against political parties as per Section 26 of the Act. A copy of Legal Notice is also sent to Election Commission, which registers all the political parties in India. CASC has asked that failure to take any action by the Ministry will compel it to approach the Court.
The #MeToo movement as of now is gravitating towards the media and fashion industry. Much recently, following the allegations former editor and Minister of State for External Affairs, M.J. Akbar has resigned. The President of NSUI, too, resigned following the allegations of sexual harassment. Allegations of sexual harassment have also been made against the social media manager of Congress, and as there was no internal ICC, FIR was lodged after a long time. However, the resignations will not solve the problem for these political parties unless they comply with the norms of the law not just by the book but also in spirit.
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