Kerala High Court: While expressing that, any organisations, establishments, private institutions are employing workers whether for wages or not in contemplation of the provisions of the Act, 2013 coming under the definition of employer, employee and workplace, they are duty bound to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, the Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ and Shaji P. Chaly, J., held that, a production unit of each film industry is an establishment employing Actor Artists and other workers and therefore, such production units have to maintain an Internal Complaints Committee if they are engaging more than 10 workers
Public Interest Litigations were 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.
It was submitted that there is a pressing need for a grievance redressal mechanism against the sexual harassment to be instituted by the organizations in the light of the recent abusive practices and the sexual harassment faced by the women in the film industry and particularly so, since the nature of the work undertaken by Actor Artists is such that, once the production of a film is over, there is no longer a workplace for that film where such grievance can be pursued.
Question to be decided
Whether any of the respondent organizations are creating a workplace or creating an employer-employee relationship in order to attract the provisions of Act, 2013 and thereby bound to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee?
Analysis and Decision
High Court opined that the organizations associated with the film industries, who are made respondents in the petitions were not employers of the Actor Artists in the film industry. Though, these organisations have their own structure, in which employees are there and therefore, if there are any women employees employed by such organisations, they are duty bound to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, if the employees are exceeding 10 in number in contemplation of Section 4 read with Section 6 of the Act, 2013.
Further, the Bench added that, it can be gathered that even if the respondent organisations are not duty bound to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, a complaint will lie to the Local Committee constituted under Section 6 because the second limb of Section 9 makes it clear that where there is no internal committee constituted, the complaint can be preferred to the local committee.
Additionally, the High Court observed that so far as the film industry is concerned, the production unit is the workplace of an individual film and therefore, each production unit would have to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, which alone can deal with the harassment against women in the contemplation of the provisions of Act, 2013.
High Court’s Opinion
(1) The production unit of each film industry is an establishment employing Actor Artists and other workers and therefore, such production units have to maintain an Internal Complaints Committee, if they are engaging more than 10 workers, as is contemplated under the Act, 2013.
(2) If any of the respondent organisations, apart from the political parties, made as respondents in W.P.(C) No.36059/2018, are duty bound to maintain Internal Complaints Committee, if they are engaging 10 workers or more for managing the office establishments and wherein women workers are employed for wages or not.
(3) If women workers are employed by any of the respondent organisations related to the film industry in which less than 10 workers are employed, then they are entitled to make suitable complaints to the Local Complaints Committee in accordance with the provisions contained under section 6 read with Section 9 of Act, 2013.
(4) Since the Association of Malayalam Movie Actors – the 3rd respondent in W.P.(C) No.33994/2018 has volunteered to appoint a committee to deal with any sexual harassment at its workplace, we record the same and accordingly to take action to notify the members of the Internal Complaints Committee, in accordance with law.
(5) From the discussions made above, we find that the political parties, which are not having any employer-employee relationship with its members and which are not carrying on with any private venture, undertaking, enterprises, institution, establishment etc. in contemplation of a ‘workplace’ as defined under section 2(o)(ii) of Act, 2013, are not liable to make any Internal Complaints Committee.
(6) In all other cases, a woman employee subjected to sexual harassment is entitled as of right to file any complaint of sexual harassment before the Local Committee in contemplation of the provisions of the act, and under section 9 r/w. Section 6 of Act, 2013.
Lastly, the Bench asked the oragnisations associated with the film industry to take steps to constitute a joint committee by including the members of organisations registered with them in tune with the provisions of Act, 2013 to deal with sexual harassment of women, which would definitely render sufficient confidence to women Actor Artists and other employees & other workers employed by the production unit ; which would in turn protect the dignity, and make the right to life and personal liberty of the women in the film industry more meaningful and fruitful.[Women in Cinema Collective v. State of Kerala, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 1436, decided on 17-3-2022]
Advocates before the Court:
For the Petitioners:
SRI.VIJAY V. PAUL
SRI.ANIL SEBASTIAN PULICKEL
For the Respondents:
SMT.AMMU CHARLES FOR R3
R4 BY MR.TALISH RAY
SRI.SUDEEP ARAVIND PANICKER
SHRI.N.MANOJ KUMAR, STATE ATTORNEY FOR R1 & R2