#MeToo: Government to form judges’ panel to examine cases, norms

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NEW DELHI: After offering her support to the #MeToo movement this week, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Friday said the government will form a committee of judges to advise it on the cases of sexual assault and harassment that have been posted on social media. “I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complaint. Cases of sexual harassment at work must be dealt with a policy of zero tolerance,” Gandhi said in a statement.

The committee is expected to be formed by early next week and will look into the legal and institutional framework, which is in place currently.

This will include framework available within The Sexual Harassment of Women at the workplace (prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, and the formation of Internal Complaints Committees, as mandated by the rules.

The independent panel will also examine the nature of individual complaints and accounts posted on Twitter as part of the movement and analyse the aspect of the stipulated time limit for reporting a crime under the statutes of limitation.

The minister had earlier this week asked the law ministry to examine the case of keeping no time limit for reporting offences of child sexual abuse under the POCSO Act.

So far, Section 468 of the CrPC lays down time limitations for filing a complaint after an offence has taken place, also called the Statute of Limitations.

If the offence is punishable with a fine then it needs to be reported within six months. A crime carrying a term not exceeding one year has a period of limitation of a year. If a crime is punishable between one and three years, then it has to be reported within three years and for anything beyond a threeyear jail term, there is no time restriction for reporting the crime.

Officials added that the commitee will also hold public meetings in which stakeholders can come and depose before the committee just as in the case of the Justice Verma Commitee that came out with guidelines for the anti-rape bill in 2013.

Gandhi said that naming and shaming will go a long way in lessening the pain the victims have been carrying.

She said the next step would be to set up a committee that can listen to the women. She also urged working women to come forward and register complaints with the government through the ‘shebox’ portal launched two years ago. They can also reach out to through #helpmeWCD on Twitter, she said.

Source: Economic Times