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Judges Panel to Look Into #MeToo Harassment Complaints, Says Maneka Gandhi

Judges Panel to Look Into #MeToo Harassment Complaints, Says Maneka Gandhi

New Delhi: Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi on Friday said the government would form a panel of judges to advise on cases of sexual assault and harassment as part of the #MeToo movement.

“I believe in all of them. I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complainant,” she said, adding that cases of sexual harassment must be dealt with zero tolerance.

She said her ministry will be setting up a committee of senior judicial and legal persons as members to examine all issues.

"We have formed a group of judges that will examine some of the cases in a free and independent style and advise them and us where to go from here," she said.

The committee will look into the legal and institutional framework which is in place for handling complaints of sexual harassment, including some of the complaints if required, and advise the ministry on how to strengthen these, she said.

Earlier this week, Gandhi had become the first Cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government to call for an investigation into the allegations of sexual harassment against minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar.

Akbar has been accused of sexual misconduct by 10 women so far, but other women ministers at the Centre, including Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman, have refused to comment.

“There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously," Gandhi had told a news channel when asked about allegations surfacing against Akbar.

She has also said that sex harassment complaints should be allowed even 10-15 years later and there should be no time limit when it comes to cases of child sexual abuse.

"You will always remember the person who did it, which is why we have written to the Law Ministry that complaints should be without any time limit," she said on Monday.

"You can now complain 10-15 years later, doesn't matter how much later. If you're going to complain the avenue is still open," she said, adding that "anger at sexual molestation never goes away".

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