After much deliberation following the controversies surrounding Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), over the stance it took on the criminal case against actor Dileep, the organisation has decided to bring in certain changes to its bye-laws. Though at first glance, it looks like AMMA has decided to give more room for women in its decision making process, a closer inspection shows that the proposed amendments are to ensure that dissenting voices are stifled or punished.
Scrapping the existing code of conduct for members, a new one has been put in place, which prohibits members of the association from raising a word against it in public.
“No member shall publish or cause to be published any statement in newspapers, social media, television, FM, merchandising, advertising, or make announcements and statements in public criticising the activities of the association, Executive Committee (EC), members of EC or members of association. These activities shall be treated as misconduct,” state the proposed byelaws of AMMA. And in case of such ‘misconduct’, the Executive Committee can take action against the member. One must remember that after a female actor was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in February 2017, many members had spoken out against AMMA’s apathy towards her.
Ample opportunity for accused to prove innocence, but zero space for complainant?
In yet another worrying amendment, AMMA has detailed the steps to be taken if an allegation is raised against a member of the association.
Though earlier, the power was explicitly vested with the Executive Committee in such matters, the new amendments give space for a Disciplinary Committee to probe complaints. The final decision however lies with the Executive Committee.
According to the proposed new rules, if a person against whom the allegation has been raised is found to be guilty prima facie by the EC, he/she will be suspended. The EC can also refer the complaint to the Disciplinary Committee. Here, it gets interesting and the proposed amendment gives a long rope to anyone accused of misconduct or moral turpitude. The Disciplinary Committee shall make a memo of charges and statement of allegations, which shall then be forwarded to the accused member.
“The Committee shall afford reasonable opportunity to the concerned member (person alleged to be guilty) and the presenting officer to present oral as well as documentary evidence,” states the proposed amendment.
After the probe is completed, a copy of the inquiry report will be given to the person against whom the complaint is raised so that he/she gets opportunity ‘to explain the findings in the report.’ In addition to this, before taking the final decision, the Executive Committee will again give the concerned person a chance for ‘personal hearing’.
Significantly, at no point in the amendment has anything been mentioned about what a complainant or victim should do if the probe is found unsatisfactory. It would not be wrong to then assume that the amendments stress on the person against whom an allegation is raised since there is no word in the new proposed laws about the complainant.
More women in committees
Another proposed amendment says that women members in AMMA will be given more powers in its decision making body. The proposed amendment has reserved one of the two posts of vice president for a woman. According to the changes, a total of four women will be part of the 17 member Executive Committee, which is the decision making body of AMMA. The association consists of about 486 actors in the Malayalam film industry.
Internal Complaints Committee
Over the past year, AMMA has faced severe criticism from people inside and outside the film industry for its male hegemony and reluctance to ensure safe working spaces. The High Court of Kerala had also issued a notice to AMMA regarding formation of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The HC’s move was in response to a writ petition filed by Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) seeking directive to AMMA to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee in line with the Vishaka Guidelines and the workplace sexual harassment Act
According to the proposed amendments, AMMA’s ICC will have a total of five members. According to the amendment, three of the five total members of ICC should be women. ICC will also include one member of a non-governmental organisation or association committed for the cause or a person familiar with issues related to sexual harassment. However, the bye-laws do not talk about the procedure to file complaints, and as per a previous clause, the recommendations of the ICC (which a sub-committee of the EC) will be decided on by the EC.