Form ICCs to curb sexual crimes: Kerala HC tells production houses

This landmark order was passed on a public interest litigation filed by Women in Cinema Collective asking for a grievance mechanism in the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists to prevent sexual harassment of women at workplaces

The WCC was formed by Parvathy Thiruvothu, Revathy, Rima Killingal, Padmapriya, Anjali Menon etc.

In a major development, the Kerala High Court has ruled that cinema production houses and film bodies must form an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, commonly known as the POSH Act.

A division bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shahi P Chaly passed this judgement on Thursday (March 17), after making the observation that each film unit is an establishment and an ICC needs to be set up for that purpose, according to media reports..

This order was passed on a public interest litigation filed by Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), asking for the creation of a grievance/redressal mechanism in the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), the body of Malayalam movie actors, to prevent sexual harassment of women at workplaces.

A division bench also recorded that AMMA has volunteered to constitute an ICC. AMMA filed an affidavit before the court saying that it has no objection to form the ICC as per the statute and added that it was in the process of forming the committee.

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In 2018, the WCC, formed in the aftermath of the sexual assault on a Malayalam actress in 2017 in a moving car, had attacked the AMMA’s inaction against the accused in the case, Dileep. In a press conference, WCC had said they had lost confidence in the association since it seemed to be indifferent to the interests of the survivor actress.

The main contention in the PIL was that AMMA had not constituted an Internal Complaints Committee/grievance address cell as mandated by the Vishaka Guidelines and the Sexual Harassment at Workplaces (prevention, prohibition, redressal act 2013).

The court has also further pointed out that film associations like the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA), Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce and Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA) with more than 10 employees should have an ICC as mandated by the statute.

The current path-breaking order was welcomed by a cross-section of people from the film industry. K Sureshkumar, the president of the Kerala Film Chamber, which is the apex body of all the film organisations, welcomed the decision and they said they will adhere to it. The veteran producer, who is also the father of actress Keerthi Suresh, pointed out that it’s only a question of the formation of an internal complaints committee and this could be either done by the Producer’s Association or the Chamber.

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