Malayalam film sets must have sexual harassment committee: Kerala HC

Court said- A film unit is an establishment and if it is engaging with more than 10 workers and if women workers are employed, then it must have an Internal Complaints Committee

Internal complaints committee

The Kerala High Court on Thursday observed that film production units have the responsibility to form an Internal Complaints Committee as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 – commonly known as the POSH Act as re[ported by livelaw.in.

The Court further held that other related associations like the Film Employees Federation of Kerala(FEFKA), Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce. with more than 10 employees should have an ICC as mandated by the statute.

The Court passed the order in the PIL filed by Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) for establishment of grievance redressal mechanism in the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), the body of Malayalam movie actors, as regards prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplaces.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly also recorded that AMMA has volunteered to constitute an ICC and added that if AMMA constitutes an ICC as undertaken the same shall be in accordance with the provisions of the POSH Act.

Film Industry is a Workplace and also needs Internal Complaints Committee

AMMA, which had been resisting forming a committee for years, decided to form one last week just before the order in the petition was pronounced. However, this IC does not have an external member as is required, and the organisation has said this will be done later.

The court commented that since each production unit of each film industry is an establishment employing actors, artists, workers and therefore such production units have t maintain an Internal Complaints Committee, if they are engaging more than 10 workers and if women workers are employed.

The main contention in the PIL was that the association had not constituted an Internal Complaints Committee/Grievance Redressal Cell as mandated by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka case and Sexual Harassment at Work Places (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013.

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“so far as the film industry is concerned, the production unit is the workplace of an individual film and therefore, each production unit would have to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, which alone can deal with the harassment against the women in contemplation of the provisions of Act, 2013.”

Meanwhile, the Centre for Constitutional Rights Research and Advocacy had also moved a PIL seeking directions to constitute Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) within political parties, media and film production houses n accordance with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment At Workplaces Act 2013.

What is WCC?

The Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) is a body of female actors and technicians. It was formed under the leadership of actors like Parvathy Thiruvothu, Revathy, Rima Killingal, Padmapriya, Anjali Menon etc., as an aftermath of the controversy following the sexual assault of a prominent actor in 2017, which was allegedly a part of the conspiracy hatched by actor Dileep. The trial in this case is still pending before a Special CBI Judge.

The formation of a women’s collective which called for safe working conditions for women in the industry, initiated a conversation about the gender issues in cinema space.

AMMA is trying to defend actor Dileep rather than stand by the sexual assault survivor.

In 2018, WCC had also convened a press meet, where they attacked the Association’s inaction against Dileep and its indifference towards the interests of the survivor. Members of the WCC had further declared in the press meet that they will look for other means to redress their grievances as they had lost confidence in the leadership of AMMA.

WCC is the first and only Womens body in the large multilingual Indian film industry.

WCC’s first appeal to the Government of Kerala in May 2017, signed by 21 women who worked in the film industry including actors, directors, technicians, and singers suggested that an ICC for sexual harassment be formed for every film that was made.

An ICC is an Internal Complaints Committee set up for the prevention of sexual harassment and to redress complaints of sexual harassment. It asked the government to make sure that films were not allowed to be made if this criterion was not met.

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