Serein

Understanding Bias : Posh Inquiry

Faakirah Junaid

- April 23, 2021

In a decision-making process, bias is considered the antithesis to a fair and just proceeding. Under the PoSH act 2013, an Internal Committee  by the foundation is enshrined to be free of any biases as they lead to a conflict of interest while impacting the outcome of the proceedings.

The issue of bias was raised in the case of  Somaya Gupta vs. Jawaharlal Nehru University and Anr and was  decided by the High Court of New Delhi on 27 August 2018.

The case as argued by the petitioner challenged the constitution of the IC on the basis of it being biased. The petitioner argued that the Internal Committee was constituted by the Executive Council of the university which was inclusive of the Respondent being “the Vice-Chancellor and Rector-I of the University.”

The High Court challenged the argument on the grounds that as the executive council constituted 22 members, apart from the Vice-Chancellor and Rector-I, the Executive Council consisted of 19 other persons who had participated in the said meeting. Hence, the argument that IC would be biased as it is constituted by the Executive Council was considered unmerited.

The court further elaborated what constitutes bias under the law, 

“…The mere fact that the ICC was constituted by the Executive council of the University that included two members who were accused, is clearly insufficient to doubt the integrity or ability of the ICC to render an unbiased opinion…It is relevant to state that the ICC as constituted by the Executive Committee is not specific to the petitioner’s case alone, but is constituted under Section 4 of the Act to consider all cases in accordance with the Act…”

Here, the court emphasises that the bias in the Internal Committee has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt;

In the case of Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd. v. Girja Shankar Pant, (2001) 1 SCC 182 was relied on which states that “…..The question in such cases would not be whether they would be biased. The question would be whether there is reasonable ground for believing that there is a likelihood of apparent bias. Actual bias only would lead to automatic disqualification where the decision-maker is shown to have an interest in the outcome of the case. The principle of real likelihood of bias has now taken a tilt to “real danger of bias” and “suspicion of bias……”

Reasonable doubt/likelihood under legal maxims can be understood as the rule that the courts adopt while adjudicating a matter. It is a standard of proof that the petitioner has to prove the defendant’s guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, not just a mere apprehension, but proof of the act i.e. the bias exists.

In the U.S. Verma, Principal, DPS & Anr. vs. National Commission for Women & Ors, the Delhi High Court held that 

An elementary principle of natural justice is that the administrative authority should be free from bias. Bias or impartiality is fairly easy to comprehend however there frequently are situations when the dividing line between what is acceptable, and what is not, is not a bright one. On such occasions, Courts have chosen to follow the “reasonable likelihood” of bias standard, which has now been reiterated as a “strong suspicion” of bias standard and this, coupled with the sound aphorism that not only impartiality but the appearance of impartiality, should be the guiding standard, is the criterion which Courts ordinarily follow

Takeaways for the Internal Committee :

  • The composition of the Committee should be checked when the case of inquiry has come for any upfront biases. For eg: If anyone in the committee is related to any party in any manner. Especially when it comes to the internal members.
  • Conduct specialized training of the members on the understanding of bias. Making IC members aware of the meaning of bias, various types of bias, triggering pointers for bias, and possible consequences of bias.
  • The responsibility of calling out bias should be incorporated within the IC at any instance. The external member can play an important role at this instance.
  • Any allegation of bias or conflict should be immediately and thoroughly reviewed, and the decision should be fully documented.
  •  The company can have more than four trained members for their IC in order to avoid delay in the reconstitution of the IC if one or more members are conflicted in any way. 

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Abhishek is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in finance and corporate governance. With over 15 years of expertise as a qualified Company Secretary, he has made significant contributions to the finance departments of companies within the real estate and startup sectors.
 
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Dr. Ishani Roy

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Ishani founded Serein to provide a data and research-based approach to solving DEI challenges at the workplace. She advises company leaders, startup founders, and venture capital firms on industry best practices to increase diversity and design a DEI roadmap.

Ishani is a recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award 2023 for the global impact of her work in the DEI space.

Before founding Serein, Ishani was a scientist at GE Research working in the Aerospace Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Brown University on developing mathematical models to solve Astrophysics problems. She did her Post-doctoral studies at the University of Oxford and St. Thomas Hospital in Biomathematics.

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Chryslynn leads the product development of Serein’s DEI SaaS tool. She designs learning content and strategic insights for companies to measure their DEI growth, and achieve bias-free recruitment and psychological safety.

Chryslynn is a regular columnist with publications like ‘LiveMint’ and ‘The Hindu’ where she writes about unconscious bias, prevention of sexual harassment, and company culture.

Before Serein, she was a Gandhi Fellow working in rural Rajasthan to address educational leadership and gender equity in government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education where she specialised in gender and sexuality education.

Bianca D’Costa

Head of PoSH: India, Global

Bianca leads the compliance partnerships and workshops on anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. She has 100+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace.

Bianca designs gamified learning modules for a unique and impactful learner experience on topics like gender inclusion, PwD inclusion, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and regional inclusion among others. 

Before Serein, Bianca worked in hospitality for 5 years with Emirates Airlines. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai. She is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality in Global Politics from SOAS University of London.

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She works closely with Serein’s 500+ long-term partners to ensure they are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law. Aparna is a workshop facilitator on topics like the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.

Aparna Pandurangan holds a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Anna University, Chennai. 

Faakirah Irfan

Head of Legal

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She has 150+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace. Her legal research at Serein includes policy analysis, human rights, women’s rights, and document drafting.

Faakirah is an experienced legal professional. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in law with a focus on women’s rights and policy analysis from the University of Kashmir. She holds a Master of Law degree specializing in alternative dispute resolution from O.P Jindal School of Law.

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Arathi Kannan

Head of DEI: India, Global

Arathi leads the design and execution of DEI measurement tools for global partners. These include Serein’s Diversity Index, the scope of unconscious bias in recruitment and promotions, and the scope of unconscious bias in external messaging. 

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Thejaswini CA

LMS Platform Associate

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Thejaswini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Application from Field Marshal KM Cariappa College, Kodagu.

Bhavini Pant

Safety and PoSH expert

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Before Serein, Bhavini worked as an archivist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and as an editorial assistant for IIT Bombay’s PR and Alumni Associations department.

She has a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University where she worked extensively with the management on anti-sexual harassment legal implementation. Her work involved the interpretation of the law in a university as a workplace and an educational institution for adults. 

Siri Prasad

Safety and PoSH Expert

Siri Prasad is a Safety and PoSH Expert at Serein and serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients. Her work is not limited to, but includes advising in legal procedures, best practices for safe work cultures, and reviewing of PoSH policies and labor law compliance.

Siri is a Gold Medallist and holds a BBA, LLB (Hons.) from Christ University and a Masters in Science (International Employment Relations) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she also served as the EDI Officer.

Rishab Prasad

DEI Specialist

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Rishab holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with Honours from CHRIST University, Bangalore. He has directed more than nine short films on topics like stigmas of menstruation, widowhood, and adoption.

Kirtika N

Safety and PoSH expert

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She has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Montfort College, Bengaluru, and has experience working as a trainee counselor.

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Safety and PoSH expert

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Sharanya graduated with BBA, LLB (Hons.) degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She has experience in PoSH and employment law with notable law firms like Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Co., J. Sagar and Associates, among others.

Nandini Abraham

Statistical Analyst

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Nandini is passionate about creating engaging and impactful reports, toolkits, and playbooks for Serein’s customers.

Nandini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Mathematics & Statistics from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore.

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HR and Compliance Lead

Nithya drives operational excellence within the HR function. She ensures that Serein maintains the highest standards of HR practices and ethical conduct. Her role extends beyond traditional HR responsibilities as she also serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients, specialising in preventing workplace harassment through the PoSH vertical.

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Sri Padmavathi C

Finance Consultant

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Sri Padmavathi C specialises in providing accounting consulting services to companies. She helps in assisting & maintaining Serein’s Books of Accounts, GST, TDS, PT filing, financial statements preparation & audit review.
 
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PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator

As a PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator, Anisha is primarily responsible for conducting sessions and facilitating conversations that enable building of safe and inclusive workplaces for all. Anisha also undertakes in-depth research into various Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues that plague our work cultures today. All of this research goes into designing bespoke sessions and curating interactive learning experiences for several of Serein’s partners. 

Anisha has a background in History, especially in the history of gender and early feminism in colonial South Asia. 

Anisha has a Bachelor’s degree in History (Hons.) from Gargi College, University of Delhi. She has also studied for an MPhil in World History from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Aseem Deuskar

Inclusive Workspace Architect

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Aseem is an Inclusive Workspace Architect dedicated to reshaping workplace diversity and accessibility. He is skilled in conducting comprehensive accessibility audits and implementing inclusive design solutions.


Aseem is passionate about creating environments that foster equal opportunities

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.

 

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