The Kerala High Court recently ruled that the Malayalam Film sets must have sexual harassment panel.
Captioned writ petitions are all Public Interest Litigations filed by various organisations seeking to constitute a grievance redressal mechanism against the sexual harassment as per the directions of the Supreme Court in Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan and in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
In another writ petition apart from the film industry, allegations of sexual harassment are raised on members of a political party; and so also there are allegations of sexual harassment against women, who are members of Kerala Working Women Journalists and certain paper reports are also referred to.
The petitioners contended that the respondent Association viz., Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), which is having registered office at Thiruvananthapuram, is an Association registered under the provisions of the Travancore Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Registration Act, 1955 and its membership is restricted to Actor Artists in feature films.
According to the petitioners, as per the bye-laws of the said society, some of the objectives are to protect the rights of the its members, to insist, maintain and develop self-discipline and professional & social ethics among members; to find out the issues concerning the artists; to analyse them and to find out possible remedies; and to act as arbitrators in all disputes that may be submitted to them for arbitration by the members and others in film industry.
The petitioners argued that the respondent association, in spite of being the dominant professional Association for Actor artists in the Malayalam film industry, has failed to implement a grievance redressal mechanism for its members against the sexual harassment at the workplace.
The respondent contended that in the case of a film production, the workplace varies from different stages of pre-production, post production etc., and predominantly the workplace of film production will be the shoot location; in a film shoot location, other than the members of the respondent, the major participants will be technicians, junior artists, production team etc., in other words, in shoot location, numbers of technicians, junior artists, production team etc. will outweigh the number of members of the respondent.
The respondent Association urged that in order to discharge the functions as contained in Chapter IV and V of the Act, 2013, an effective Grievance Forum is to be constituted by the employer. Otherwise, the whole procedure will become a mockery and the objectives of the Act, 2013 cannot be fulfilled.
The division bench of the Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly opined that the production unit of each film industry is an establishment employing Actor Artists and other workers and therefore, such production units have to maintain an Internal Complaints Committee, if they are engaging more than 10 workers, as is contemplated under the Act, 2013.
The court found that the political parties, which are not having any employer-employee relationship with its members and which are not carrying on with any private venture, undertaking, enterprises, institution, establishment etc. in contemplation of a ‘workplace’ as defined under section 2(o)(ii) of Act, 2013, are not liable to make any Internal Complaints Committee.
The court conveyed its desire that the organisations associated with the film industry viz., Association of Malayalam Movie Actors (AMMA), FEFKA, Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce, Kerala Film Producers Association, take steps to constitute a joint committee, by including the members of organisations registered with them in tune with the provisions of Act, 2013 to deal with sexual harassment of women, which would definitely render sufficient confidence to women Actor Artists and other employees & other workers employed by the production unit.
It would in turn protect the dignity, and make the right to life and personal liberty of the women in the film industry more meaningful and fruitful.
The court also made it clear that the State Government has notified District Collectors of 14 districts in the State of Kerala and directed that all Heads of the Departments, to constitute Internal Complaints Committee in all the Government, Quasi Government and private institutions, and designated 258 Child Development Project Officers of the the Women & Child Development as Nodal Officers as per section 6(2) of Act, 2013.
Case title: Women in Cinema Collective and Ors. v/s State of Kerala and Ors.
Citation: WP(C) NO. 33994 OF 2018