In a significant development for the film industry, the Kerala High Court has ruled that each film production unit would have to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (“ICC”), to deal with complaints of harassment against women.
The Court, in Women in Cinema Collective v. State of Kerala, (2022) SCC OnLine Ker 1436, was dealing with public interest litigations filed by various organizations seeking to constitute a grievance redressal mechanism against sexual harassment as per the Supreme Court directions in Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241, and in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“POSH Act”) provides for constitution of an ICC, by every employer of a workplace.
The Court ruled that so far as the film industry is concerned, the production unit is the workplace of an individual film. Each production unit is an establishment employing Actor Artists and therefore, each production unit would have to constitute an ICC, if they are engaging more than 10 workers and such ICC can deal with complaints of harassment against women.
The Court also noted that if women workers are employed by organisations related to the film industry in which less than 10 workers are employed, then the women workers are entitled to make complaints regarding harassment to the Local Complaints Committee (which is constituted under the POSH Act in each District by the District Collector).
As far as organisations associated with the film industry, which are in the nature of representative associations (as opposed to being workplaces characterized by employer-employee relationships), such as Association of Malayalam Movie Actors (AMMA), Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA), Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce and Kerala Film Producers Association are concerned, the Court was of the clear opinion that they are not employers of Actor Artists in the film industry. However, the Court conveyed its desire that they also take steps to constitute a joint committee to deal with sexual harassment of women. Further, the Court also noted that these organisations have their own structure, in which employees are present, and if any women employees are employed by such organisations, they are duty bound to constitute an ICC.
The Court’s direction is a step in the right direction and is likely to strengthen confidence of women Actor Artists and other women workers employed in the film industry, by providing an accessible forum for registering complaints of harassment. This is a significant development for women’s safety and access to justice.
Links: Judgment in Women in Cinema Collective v. State of Kerala –https://hckinfo.kerala.gov.in/digicourt/Casedetailssearch/fileview?token=MjE1NzAwMzYwNTkyMDE4XzIucGRm&lookups=b3JkZXJzLzIwMTg=
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 – https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A2013-14.pdf