Right to Information
Appellate Authority at NCW is accused of sexual harassment. Is there any hope for the victim?
Sexual harassment and crimes against women continue to dent our country’s image, but what does one say when the National Women’s Commission’s itself is accused of indifference to a woman staffer’s petition alleging sexual harassment by Deputy Secretary VVB Raju? Worse, the accused is the designated the First Appellate Authority under RTI (http://ncw.nic.in/frmRTI_Officers.aspx) and in a position to stall information.
 
The matter has been taken up by the Central Information Commission (CIC), which has issued a show cause notice to the accused, following a second appeal by the victim.  The complainant, a research assistant, was allegedly harassed by VVB Raju. The CIC has slammed the NCW for its apathy and for ignoring the victim’s application. It has also recommended a clean-up of NCW’s RTI wing to remove tainted officers from key positions and to facilitate the inspection of files by the RTI applicant.
 
In 2016, the victim submitted a complaint of sexual harassment to the Member Secretary of NCW. Her complaint said: “for the last four months I have been going through huge problems in the same work and the routine. Some four months back a new Deputy Secretary has come to the Commission whose attitude and behaviour is objectionable. Mr VVB Raju, who is the new DS, started harassing me ever since he joined the Commission. He insists that I should come to him in person to get his signatures and that too in the evening, only after 5:30pm. When I refused to stay after 5:30pm for getting his signatures, then he threatened he would complain to the Chairperson of the Commission and will throw me out of the job”. 
 
Her case was addressed by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of the National Women’s Commission. However, the ICC’s report did not go to the Disciplinary Committee for action. So, the victim filed a RTI application seeking file notings, correspondence regarding extension (or non-extension) of contract of her employment, inquiry report, statements of witnesses, action taken on report and so on. 
 
She did not receive any information but was given a letter by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to contact ‘higher-ups’. She made telephone calls in response to instructions in that letter, but they were not answered. She then filed First Appeal but was told that she cannot get information as it is `third party information.’’ The victims says that she needs the documents to fight her case before the various Authorities and the Competent Court. As there was no response to her RTI application, emails, telephonic requests, first appeal, visits to the NCW and other efforts, she filed a second appeal to the CIC.
 
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu, the central information commissioner who heard the case observes: “…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 a problem and why the RTI wing of the NCW has totally blocked access to information to the appellant. And, above all, the Member Secretary is silent on her complaint.’’ 
He further says, ``the submission of the appellant reflects unhealthy environment at workplace in the forum, which is supposed to protect the rights of women. Her right to life, right to work and right to information were seriously endangered by sexual harassment by senior officer.’’
 
There was no representative from NCW at the CIC hearing, which irritated the commissioner. He says, the``non-response of National Commission for Women to two complaints of sexual harassment within their organization, allowing an officer who was accused of sexual harassment, to deal with the first appeal under RTI Act…If this is the fate of a woman who is working as research assistant in National Commission for Women, what will be the plight of ordinary women outside the NCW?’’  
 
The commissioner has demanded an explanation from the NCW with regard to its breach of two statutes on Sexual Harassment and Right to Information. The CIC has also ordered that NCW should facilitate the following. 
 
Allow a file inspection of ``statements, inquiry report, action taken on that, and provide certified copies of the documents sought, free of cost, along with the files pertaining to increasing remuneration of ICC members,and witnesses. File notings of extension of contract of appellant including remarks of satisfactory work, along with the inquiry report and action taken report on that, free of cost
He has asked the CPIO of NCW to give reason why he should not be slammed with maximum penalty
The alleged accused and First Appellate Authority, VB Raju has been asked why disciplinary action should not be recommended against him for violating the law in dealing with first appeal under RTI Act. That he is the accused in the sexual harassment case points to a clear conflict of interest;
The Member Secretary has been asked to explain why the NCW should not be ordered to pay compensation to the appellant for the harassment, and to explain his action/inaction on the complaint of the appellant. 
CIC has recommended to the chairperson of the NCW ``to save the credibility and reputation of NCW, within reasonable time and perform its duty to cleanse the RTI wing including the First Appellate Authority to make it objective and secure it from misconduct and breach by officers.’’
 
The commissioner also observed that  “members in the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) were contractual staff of NCW. How can it be expected from a contractual staff to go against the management? And this Contractual Staff was later enormously rewarded by increasing their remuneration two-fold without any adequate justification. The order increasing remuneration states that the expenditure involved is to be charged under Plan Head "Research Studies" whereas their work does not correlate to "Research Study" in any manner whatsoever. Even the witnesses who gave statements before ICC were also adequately compensated for their contribution, by doubling the remuneration without any justification.’’
 
``The second appeal clearly shows that she was further victimized because of her bold complaint against sexual harassment of First Appellate Authority, by reducing her term of contract and then by removing from her position. 
 
``First her contractual term of job was reduced, then not extended, along with two other employees. Thereafter, these two employees were re-instated in the month of April 2017, but appellant was left out. The sudden increase in remuneration of contractual employees who were on inquiry committee as witnesses strengthen the allegation of conspiracy to harass the appellant and strategic plan to remove her.’’
 
``The NCW should not have abdicated the good governance principles of responding to complaint…’’
 
(Full CIC’s show cause notice here: CIC/NCFWO/A/2017/135800)
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005, and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book, “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte”, with Vinita Kamte, and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.) 
 

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COMMENTS

Ravindra Malve

14 hours ago

Shocking and shameful incident for NCW. What about other women who has hope and faith in NCW? It will send wrong message to them.

Muneer mohd

1 day ago

Nicely explained your childhood
Its a reminder to look back to my childhood
Thankyou sir

Pahadi baba

3 days ago

NCW needs to follow what they preach to other men outside NCW to follow.

STT anomaly on exercised options pose serious risks for stock traders, brokers and Exchanges
Retail investors trading in stock options beware. The Securities Transaction Tax (STT), which is a massive multiple of their entire trade, has been hitting unaware investors on options expiry day. And, neither the market regulator not the National Stock Exchange (NSE) has put up any warning signs.
 
A few cases being discussed on social media, where retail traders have been charged STT, which is a huge multiple of their entire trading in exercised options. One Chirag Gupta had even started an online petition that has received over 7,500 signatures. While this anomaly can completely wipe out the trader or broker, many of them are not even aware till they are hit.
 
The STT in case of exercised options is charged at a rate of 0.125% of the entire contract value while it is 0.05% of the premium value if sold on the exchange. 
 
 
 
Aftab Khan, a small trader from Karnataka is running from pillar to post after he was hit by the STT anomaly. In one transactions on the National Stock Exchange (NSE)'s futures & options (F&O) segment, he could not square off his options, which expired with some value. For the transaction, he earned a profit of Rs2.08 lakh, however the STT levied on him was Rs6.26 lakh making him to pay Rs4.12 lakh to the broker.  
 
 
Similarly, Mr Gupta, who had started an online petition, also faced with a huge STT. Here is what he says...
 
"This is an incident that happened with me on the last options expiry. On 25 January 2017, the expiry for January contracts, I had bought 8600 Nifty calls at 3.25pm for Rs.0.05 as I was 100% sure that Nifty will close above 8600 based on my 25 minutes weighted average price calculations. True to my expectations, Nifty closed at 8602.75. I had bought 3000 lots (one Nifty lot was 75 units at that time) of Nifty 8600 call options at 5 paise, paying a premium of Rs11,250. By the numbers, you can see that I should have made a profit of about Rs6,07,500 (2.7x2.25 lakh) right? But what followed was beyond comprehension.
 
I did make a profit on this trade because I let the option expire with some value. But much to my surprise, at the end of the day when I received the contract note, I found out that the STT in case of exercised options was charged at 0.125% on the entire contract value as opposed to 0.05% on the premium value if I had sold them on the exchange. So even though I did make a gross profit on this trade, to my shock, I ended up with a huge loss of Rs18 lakh because I had to pay STT of over Rs24 lakh. If I had sold the options before the market closed, the STT I would have had to pay would have been a few thousand rupees, but holding it just for a few minutes extra cost me over Rs16 lakh in losses. Are Securities And Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Government of India aware of how traders like me can lose their hard-earned savings in this manner?"
 
The question that arise after such examples, is why there is anomaly in the way STT is levied differently and why there is a huge difference in the rates, one at 0.125% on entire value and other at 0.05% on premium? Since majority retail traders believe that the downside to an option buyer is the premium only, they need to get a warning about the STT applicable, if they are about to allow the option to expire with some value.
 
The National Stock Exchange (NSE) on its website says STT is applicable on all sell transactions for both futures and option contracts. “Value of taxable securities transaction relating to an ‘option in securities’ shall be the option premium, in case of sale of an option in securities. Value of taxable securities transaction relating to an ‘option in securities’ shall be the settlement price, in case of sale of an option in securities, where option is exercised,” NSE says.

According to BSE, during 1 October 2004 to 31 May 2008, the Budget had provided that in the case of taxable securities transaction relating to option in securities, the tax should be the aggregate of the strike price and the option premium of such options in securities. The STT was charged at 0.01% from 1 October 2004, 0.0133% from 1 June 2005 and then at 0.017% from 1 June 2006.

As per NSE, the current STT is being levied as per the Finance Act 2008. The Exchange has reportedly taken up the issue of this anomaly in STT where options is exercised with SEBI and the government and hope to get a solution soon.
 
What is more serious in these cases is if the client did not have any funds in his account, then the Exchange would debit the money from the broker's account. In Mr Gupta's case, the broker would have to pay Rs24 lakh in case there was no money in his account. "If a bunch of clients, like me, say had bought three lakh lots with around Rs10 lakh, the potential losses just because of STT would have been over Rs24 crore. What if the broker was not liquid enough to make up for this loss? This could easily be Rs24 crore or Rs240 crore or even Rs2400 crore. Would not such losses be a widespread systemic risk to everyone in the capital markets," Mr Gupta asks. 
 
According to NSE, STT payable by the clearing member is the sum total of STT payable by all trading members clearing under him and the trading member's liability is the aggregate STT liability of clients trading through him. 
 
The STT for exercised options should be either brought down to same levels that are applicable when trading on the markets, or else it can open a trading window aftermarket hours on expiry day to close out all in the money options similar to the post-market trading session for equity.
 
At present, brokers are given a 20-minutes window in equity market post closure of the market for the day so that they can scan their logs and square off positions. Similar window is required for options as well to remove the anomaly in levy of STT.
 
We sent emails to market regulator SEBI, which said that it has been forwarded to the concerned department.

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COMMENTS

Ravindra Malve

13 hours ago

FnO segment is the most favorite of all.Market regulators must taker cognizance of this otherwise investors sentiments will be dampened further.

n k gupta

3 days ago

I think if Derivatives is a cash settled plateform , then why? a investor pay STT equal to Cash Transaction. I know this is true but what can we do ?

K V RAO

7 days ago

Some brokerages (read ICICI DIRECT,)have the practice of squaring off the position 10 minutes before closing if the client does not do it.In fact their system has been programmed to take care of this.

K V RAO

7 days ago

This is a serious anomaly that may not stand the test of law and natural justice.This is also a best case for public interest litigation.I am quite sure the judiciary will frown on this rule of SEBI.Better they set it right.

REPLY

Kunal Singh

In Reply to K V RAO 4 days ago

such strong judgement, why not test it?

MUKUND PHADKE

7 days ago

Exchanges and sebi must look into interest of common investors.

HC asks on record RBI orders on Essar Steel's insolvency proceedings
The Gujarat High Court on Thursday directed for placing on record before it an RBI directive to a consortium of 22 lenders to initiate insolvency proceedings against Essar Steel following its high Non-Performing Assets (NPAs).
 
Hearing the July 4 petition filed by the major steelmaker to seek quashing of insolvency proceedings, a single bench of Justice S.G. Shah expressed its surprise that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directive to a consortium of lenders led by the State Bank of India and Standard Chartered Bank had not been placed on court record neither by the petitioner nor the respondents.
 
It is this directive that is under challenge by Essar Steel, which has claimed in the court, among other things, that it was kept in the dark while the central bank asked the lenders to initiate the insolvency proceedings when the company was in a restructuring mode. 
 
The company also alleged that it is being singled out for action among all 12 major accounts identified as NPAs totalling Rs 7,50,000 crore.
 
Essar Steel had a debt of Rs 45,655 crore, of which Rs 31,671 crore had turned NPAs for banks by March 31, 2016. This increased to Rs 32,864 crore by March 31 this year.
 
The RBI, meanwhile, has disputed the company's claims. 
 
The central bank's counsel Darius Khambata told the High Court that it was crystal clear from the minutes of the meeting between the company and its lenders that it was "far from reaching any restructuring settlement". 
 
Also, he contended, Essar Steel was quite aware of insolvency proceedings against it at the National Company Law Tribunal.
 
As for the company's allegation that it was being singled out, the RBI counsel said the insolvency proceedings would actually help the company and added that the objective of the proceedings at the NCLT was to recover "maximum value in a minimum time-bound manner".
 
"The IBC (The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) is not for winding up a company but to resolve and restructurea to avoid winding up," Khambata said.
 
The RBI counsel said the list of 12 large NPAs against which the RBI had advised banks to initiate insolvency proceedings had been drawn to prevent the loss of public money. 
 
"The NCLT follows a time-bound, structured process, under statutory provisions. Its purpose is to maximise the value of assets and put it back into the system."
 
The hearing in the case will continue on Friday.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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