Kerala’s Women Commission has filed an application at the High Court seeking to be one of the respondents in the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) moved by Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) demanding the establishment of Internal Complaints Committee in the Malayalam film industry.
In the aftermath of the 2017 Malayalam female actor abduction and sexual assault incident, the WCC filed the PIL in 2018 seeking the establishment of a grievance redressal mechanism by the Association of Malayalam Artists (AMMA).
The Women’s Commission has now told the HC that the WCC had sent them an email stating that AMMA and the Cine & TV Artists Association (CINTAA) had not yet constituted a grievance cell despite being duty-bound to do so. It added that the association has still not established 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.
The commission has hence sought to be added to the PIL as an additional respondent.
It may be noted that on July 1, 2017, the Kerala government established the Justice Hema Committee to study the issues of gender disparity, sexual harassment, and other issues faced by women in the Malayalam film industry and propose recommendations. Many women described their traumatic experiences before the commission.
Headed by retired judge Hema, the committee’s report was submitted to the government on December 31, 2019. Since then, one of the fights of the WCC has been to get the Hema Commission report published. The members of WCC have constantly been questioning the delay in the publishing of the report.
Last month, members of WCC met the Kerala Women’s Commission requesting intervention in the matter. Following that, the KWC Chairperson Sathidevi stated that the Hema Committee report is not bound to be brought up before the state assembly for debate as it had not been set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act.
However, she also said that the government was expected to take follow-up measures based on the recommendations of the committee and stressed the need for legislation to regulate the film industry. “Even years after the passage of the Equal Remuneration Act, disparity in wages is a reality in the industry. The commission is of the view that a production house should be given registration for filmmaking only after it sets up an ICC. We will place these issues before the government,” she had said.
The KWC, in its application before the HC now, also mentioned that it had written to the state government, on January 27, highlighting the necessity to implement the recommendations of the Hema Committee for the welfare of women artists in the film industry.
HC seeks explanation on Hema Commission Report from state and centre
Meanwhile, a separate petition demanding the implementation of the recommendations in the Hema Committee report has been filed before the High Court by a Malappuram-based organisation named Disha. The HC recently sought an explanation from the state government and the union government in connection to this petition, according to an Onmanorama report.
The petition stated that the government has not taken any further action based on the report. The state government, however, responded that local complaint committees have been formed in 14 districts as per Section 6 of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 and 258 nodal officers have been appointed.
The petition also demanded action, including the registration of criminal cases, on the complaints filed before the Hema Committee by women working in the Malayalam film industry.
During the hearing, the court observed that the implementation of the Hema Committee report was a matter within the discretionary powers of the government.
The case will be taken up again after four weeks.