After a lot of back and forth, it seems the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes has formed an Internal Complaints Committee (anti-sexual harassment committee) ahead of its mega show in Abu Dhabi on December 7 to collect funds for flood relief.
TNM has learnt that the committee will have have four or five members from within the association. These include actors Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Asha Sharath, Shweta Menon and Rachana Narayanankutty. One of these four members confirmed to TNM that she received a call on Monday morning informing her that she will be part of the ICC. Though actor Jagadeesh (treasurer of AMMA) is also rumoured to be a member, he told TNM that he was unsure of this.
The law mandates that the ICC should have a woman external member who is either a lawyer or a social worker. Advocate Preethi Ramakrishnan who is a lawyer practicing in the High Court of Kerala confirmed to TNM that she has accepted AMMA’s invitation to be part of the panel. “Yes, I will be in the committee. I haven’t got any papers on it yet so I don’t know any other details as of now,” she said. The final list of names, however, could change as AMMA has two weeks to reply to court.
On November 26, in a blow to AMMA, Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar passed an order making it clear that the grievance forum was not in accordance with the PoSH Act and asked AMMA’s counsel K Srikumar to furnish a reply. It is now clear that it is only after this order by the High Court, that AMMA decided that it had no option but to form an ICC.
ICC formed by AMMA under pressure
Though AMMA has reached out to these actors to be a part of its ICC, the decision seems to have been under pressure from the High Court and Women in Cinema Collective.
WCC, represented by Rima Kallingal and Padmapriya, had filed a writ petition on October 16, demanding the formation of the ICC at AMMA, in line with the Vishaka Guidelines and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (Act 14 of 2013) or PoSH Act. After the WCC filed its writ petition, the High Court had issued notice to AMMA seeking response about constituting the ICC.
Replying to this, AMMA had said that it had a Women’s Cell Grievance Forum with three members- KPAC Lalitha, Kaviyoor Ponnamma and Cuckoo Parameshwaran. AMMA had also said that it was not an employer or a workplace and therefore it did not have to constitute an ICC.
On November 20, Rima Kallingal on behalf of WCC filed another counter saying that AMMA is the employer for all shows and commercial activities and there should be an ICC formed for the mega show in Abu Dhabi. She also said that the grievance forum was not in accordance with Section 4 of the PoSH Act.
WCC pointed out in its petition that after the assault of a colleague in 2017, AMMA did not ‘rise up to the occasion and take effective steps for putting in place systems and checks’
“None of the members of the said Grievance Forum have undertaken any training or sensitization relating to issues of sexual harassment at the workplace, nor do they have any visible background in issues of gender justice. The belated constitution of the said Grievance Forum appears to be a face-saving attempt rather than an effort to provide effective redressal,” WCC said.
WCC also argued that the entire AMMA Abu Dhabi show was initiated, conceived and organized by the Executive Committee of AMMA and therefore, they were responsible for the workplace. It was following this that AMMA called up a few members on Monday and informed them about the ICC.
Manju Warrier says no?
Reportedly, Manju Warrier was asked to be in the ICC but she has declined to join. Among the four AMMA members, Shweta Menon had said last year that she didn’t need a WCC to fight for her. Asha Sharath whose film Drama with AMMA president Mohanlal has recently released said in an interview that Mollywood is the safest place for women to work if you react wherever it is necessary.
Rachana along with another AMMA member Honey Rose had filed an impleading petition in the High Court in August this year seeking that the actor abduction and assault case be heard by a woman judge. The move came soon after AMMA was criticised for its decision to reinstate actor Dileep, an accused in the case. Sources had said that AMMA’s decision to make Honey and Rachana support the survivor in her demand for a woman judge was to salvage their reputation.