Friday, July 28, 2017

NCW still mum on sexual harassment case; CIC slaps penalty, orders compensation

Moneylife: New Delhi: Friday, July 28, 2017.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has slapped a penalty of Rs25,000 each on three officers at the National Commission for Women (NCW) and asked it pay a compensation of Rs50,000 to the appellant for not providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and for failing to take action against erring officials.  
Despite a show-cause notice from the CIC, the NCW has not provided information or taken action against the officer.  
Last week, Moneylife had highlighted the plight of an RTI applicant, working until recently as Research Assistant Officer at NCW, who was allegedly harassed by her senior colleague, Deputy Secretary VVB Raju, who incidentally is also the First Appellate Authority under the RTI Act in the NCW. (Read: Appellate Authority at NCW is accused of sexual harassment. Is there any hope for the victim?)
The RTI applicant, an alleged victim of sexual harassment, had sought file notings, correspondence regarding extension (or non-extension) of contract of her employment, inquiry report instituted against Mr Raju, statements of witnesses, action taken on report, amongst the 16 points of information. As per Section 7 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005, the CPIO was to give the requested information within 48 Hours of the application, However, no information was received. Nor was it given even after 30 days, under Section 6 of the RTI Act.
In his order on 20 June 2017, Professor M Sridhar Acharyulu, Central Information Commissioner, noted that when Raju met the RTI applicant, she should have been allowed to inspect the files. He said, “It is not known why NCW office was acting totally against the rights of the appellant and there was not an iota of effort to address her grievance or complaint or problem and why the RTI wing of the NCW has totally blocked the access to information to the appellant. And above all the Member Secretary is silent on her complaint.”
Mr Acharyulu has also asked the NCW to give a “token compensation” of Rs50,000 within 15 days. He states, “For the harassment caused by denial and victimising her further for filing complaints and RTI requests, she has to be compensated and provided with the costs, without any prejudice to her right to claim damages under Torts law. She was denied information for more than six months. Till today complete information was not given. It is difficult to calculate exact loss she suffered at the hands of various officers. Hence the Commission awards a token compensation of Rs50,000 and directs the public authority to pay Rs50,000 to the appellant-victim, within 15 days from date of receipt of this order.”
Besides, the CIC has imposed a penalty of Rs25,000 on Mr Raju, to be paid in  five monthly instalments. The CIC has directed the member secretary of NCW to recover this amount from Raju’s salary. NCW’s former CPIO, G Nagarajan, has been slapped with a penalty of Rs25,000 for non-compliance. The present CPIO (Raju again) has additionally been punished with Rs25,000 penalty.  
The CIC also mentioned that the National Commission for Women’s workplace had an “unhealthy environment”.”
The CIC observed that the National Commission for Women has a Constitutional duty to explain reasons for breach of two statutes on sexual harassment and Right to Information in the present case.
The appeal is posted for hearing on 28 August.