New Delhi: Until the end of March 2019, Twitter Communications India Private Limited, more than six years into its existence in India, had not set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as required under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. It had not also put in place an anti-sexual harassment policy. And this, in spite of at least two instances of sexual harassment taking place in Twitter India offices, in Delhi and Bangalore, prior to March 2019, according to Twitter’s own submission with Government of India.

The fact that Twitter had not constituted an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at least until the end of the financial year 2019, more than six years after starting its operations in India, is  mentioned in the filing it did with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) on 19 September 2019 for the financial year April 2018-March 2019.

“The company is in the process of setting up the Internal Complaints Committee as required under the said act. Similarly, the company is in the process of establishing its anti-sexual harassment policy as per the provision of the said act”, the statement reads.

Twitter was incorporated in India on 20 February 2013, while the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 became a law in December 2013.

As per the company’s filing for 2019-2020, the two instances of sexual complaint were filed by Twitter employees in Delhi and Bangalore.

“Formal written complaint of sexual harassment raised by a Twitter employee in Delhi, X will be included as an IC member in relation to that complaint”, the filing submitted by Twitter India reads. IC implies “Internal Committee” that is mandated to be established under the anti-sexual harassment law. Name of the employee has been removed and replaced with “X” by this newspaper.

The second part of the relevant para reads: “Formal written complaint of sexual harassment raised by a Twitter employee in Bangalore, Y and Z will be included as IC members in relation to that complaint.” Names of the employees have been removed and replaced with “Y” and “Z” by this newspaper.

In the same filing, Twitter India mentions that it has constituted a five-member Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) comprising its legal counsel, employees from the human resource department and an external member.

The filing also mentions that the company did not receive any complaint of sexual harassment during the FY under review (April 2019-March 2020).

The said instances of sexual harassment have been documented and filed with Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, as per the laid down guidelines and carries the signature of two directors of Twitter India.

It is pertinent to mention that the non-constitution of an ICC, in the quorum prescribed, attracts a penalty, including imposition of a fine up to Rs 50,000 and twice the amount of fine for repetition of the same offence. Further, the Act provides for withdrawal, non-renewal or cancellation of business licences, as the case may be, in case of repeated non-compliance.

The Sunday Guardian sent a detailed questionnaire to Ian Plunkett, the global head of communication, Twitter, seeking his response on the matter including the action, if any, that was taken against anyone who was accused of sexual harassment in their India office.

The Sunday Guardian also sought the responses to the below mentioned queries from Twitter.

  1. Since when has Twitter had offices in India with employees, including women employees?
  2. When was the ICC set up? Please mention the specific year.
  3. In the period that Twitter has had offices in India, have there been any formal complaints about sexual harassment by any female employee/s? If yes, how have these complaints been dealt with?

In its response, a Twitter spokesperson said, “Twitter does not tolerate sexual harassment at the workplace and has established an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in India to address sexual harassment complaints in accordance with Indian law. To date, the ICC has not received any formal complaints of this nature. We disclose this information in our annual filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, as required by law.”