Kerala High Court on Thursday ordered film production houses in the Malayalam industry to form an internal complaints committee (ICC) as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) PoSH Act, 2013.
The court observed that every film unit is an establishment and that production houses have the responsibility to form an ICC. The order was passed by a division bench with Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly, following the PIL filed by the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), demanding the establishment of a grievance redressal cell in the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA) and other film bodies in the industry.
The bench noted that AMMA has volunteered to constitute an ICC, following the provisions of the PoSH Act. It also directed that other associations like the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA), the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce (KFC) and the Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA) that have more than 10 employees, need to set up an ICC.
Earlier, AMMA had filed an affidavit before the court saying that it has no objection to forming the ICC as per law, reiterating that it was included in the process of forming the committee.
Recently, AMMA announced the formation of an ICC to address the grievances of its members in a circular dated March 10. It noted that actor Shwetha Menon, who is also the vice president of AMMA, will be the ICC’s presiding officer, while other members included actors Rachana Narayanankutty, Kukku Parameswaran and Maala Parvathi. The circular also states that a lawyer will be appointed to the committee during its next meeting on Saturday.
This order comes in at a time, when a young woman raised a complaint against debutant filmmaker Liju Krishna for allegedly raping and abusing her for two years. The survivor mentioned that there was no official grievance redressal cell on the sets to complain about the sexual abuse.
In a positive move, the makers of the upcoming Malayalam film 1744 WA (White Alto), Kabinii Films, voluntarily established an ICC to address complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct complaints on their sets.
It may be noted that the WCC was formed by a group of female artists and technicians from the Malayalam film industry, including actors Manju Warrier, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Rima Kallingal, Geethu Mohandas, and editor Bina Paul, in the aftermath of the 2017 female actor abduction and sexual assault incident.
Since then, they have been constantly demanding the establishment of ICC/Grievance Redressal Cell in the Malayalam film industry. In 2018, a PIL was filed by the WCC seeking the same, and in February 2022, Kerala’s Women Commission also stressed the same and added itself as a respondent in the petition.