Kerala SIC orders issuing of Hema Committee report, criticises delay

In his order, State Information Commissioner A Abdul Hakeem directed the report to be released without withholding any information, except that pertaining to the privacy of individuals, as prohibited under the RTI Act.
Justice Hema and WCC
Justice Hema and WCC
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The State Information Commission (SIC) has ordered the Kerala government to issue the Hema Committee report, which is believed to have crucial findings about systemic harassment in the Malayalam film industry. In his order, State Information Commissioner A Abdul Hakeem directed the report to be issued without withholding any information, except that pertaining to the privacy of individuals, as prohibited under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. 

Abdul Hakeem also observed in his order that the burial of the Hema Committee report by officials of the Department of Cultural Affairs is an example of how some bureaucrats misrepresent ideas put forward by the government in good interest. “This report comprises findings that are intended to course-correct and address the problems faced by women associated with a grand enterprise like cinema, which has the power to influence society. It is not good for officials to conceal the contents of such a crucial report,” he mentioned.

The Department of Cultural Affairs was also pulled up for being “prejudiced and withholding information without carefully examining the intention of the petitioners”. Abdul Hakeem further criticised the withholding of the report for so long, citing that it undermines the purpose of forming the Hema Committee itself, the first of its kind in the country established by a state government to probe the issues faced by those working in the film industry.

It was in 2017 that the then-newly formed Women In Cinema Collective (WCC) met with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, demanding a probe into the problems faced by women in Malayalam cinema, in the aftermath of a sexual assault on a woman actor in Kochi, allegedly masterminded by actor Dileep. Headed by former Justice K Hema as chairperson and comprising yesteryear actor Sharada and former bureaucrat KB Valsalakumari as members, the Committee was formed on November 16, 2017.

On December 31, 2019, it submitted its findings to the Kerala government, but the report has remained unpublished to date despite journalists and information rights activists filing multiple RTIs. 

The SIC has now directed the Department of Cultural Affairs to furnish the information to RTI applicants before July 25. If the order is not implemented, the  State Public Information Officer and Appellate Authority must appear before the SIC on July 27.

The SIC has also underlined that the portions of the Committee report that divulge the identity or identifying information of individuals must be removed and only the rest of the the findings must be issued. The Secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs is tasked with ensuring the implementation of the SIC order.

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