Landmark amendments to India’s sexual harassment law failed to get approval by the Union Cabinet on Thursday. The amendments would have done at least two things to India’s Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill:
(1) bring domestic help and workers under the ambit of protection of the Bill; and
(2) place the burden of proving innocence on employers.
These amendments were “based on the recommendations given by a parliamentary standing committee,” and it appears that the second amendment was the one that created the controversy. According to an article on the amendments, “A senior minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, said ‘some more discussion is needed on the bill. You cannot have it completely one-sided.’” I wonder, though, whether the amendment does indeed firmly place the burden of proof on employers or whether it is more in the vein of the McConnell-Douglas burden shifting framework that exists in the United States.
In any event, the proposed amendments will now be sent to a Group of Ministers headed Home Minister P Chidambaram. It will be interested to see what emerges in terms of sexual harassment law in the world’s second most populated country.