#MeToo complaints: FWICE demands fair enquiry before doling out ‘justice’ to avoid potential misuse
Mumbai: While pledging its support to the victims of sexual misconduct with their full strength and might, The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) has also advocated for a fair enquiry in matters of #MeToo allegations before taking any arbitrary decisions against the alleged harassers based on hearsay and anonymous complaints.
According to FWICE, the law related to Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition &Redressal) Act, 2013, (POSH), has well defined procedures for registering and investigating a sexual harassment complaint. The POSH enquiry procedure is based on the principle of natural justice which requires that both the victim and the alleged harasser shall be provided an opportunity to be heard, before any disciplinary action is taken. Disciplinary action may be taken only after the POSH enquiry has been completed, both sides have been duly witness statements recorded and a copy of the findings shared with both the victim and the alleged harasser. It is pertinent to note, that, the POSH Act recognises the possibility of false complaints being filed and mandates equal disciplinary action against false complainants, so that the innocent are not wrongly defamed or charged.
Ashoke Pandit, Chief Advisor to the FWICE and the president of IFTDA (Indian Film and Television Directors of India) believes that the #MeTooIndia movement has gained strong and so, it must not be misused by anyone, man or woman, to settle personal scores. He points out that its essential that the federation of crafts and the studios, production houses and all the affiliates of these bodies, work together cohesively to look into a reported complaint before doling out ‘justice’.
“We want all these cases of sexual harassment to have a firm standing in the court of law. We are all for action against the real culprits but we also want a thorough and evidence-led enquiry into every case of sexual harassment at workplace that emanates from our industry. We want to be very sure ant to clean this entire process of filmmaking for men and who have faced harassment”.
“We don’t want anyone to face humiliation or any trouble on the basis of a mere anonymous complaint. In the case of the on-going #MeToo movement, I insist that there should not be penalty before a fair and square enquiry. Powerful organisations — be it a studio, a production house or any other — cannot be doling out ‘justice’ before one is proven guilty. In my personal capacity and in the capacity the offices that I hold, I am with the person who has been wronged. But without evidence, if members of our crafts are being socially harmed, their reputation is being tarnished without any proven ground, it’s not fair. It takes people years to build a reputation in the industry and with one ouster, one case of being publically shamed, that person, even without being proven guilty, will suffer for the rest of his life. They will be denied their basic right to earn a living” he added.
BN Tewari, the president of FWICE, told BT, “We are a trade with 24 crafts under our umbrella. We have to ensure that dignity and honour of our members are intact and their fundamental right to work and make a living is not snatched away from them. The POSH Act supports the right to have a fair chance to be heard”.
Reiterating its stand, the association (FWICE) has also issued a notice to Star India, demanding that the ‘arbitrary and illegal suspension of Director Mukesh Chhabrabe revoked immediately as the notice has been served on its affiliate, IFTDA’s member, in violation of the POSH enquiry procedure and the principle of natural justice as laid down by the POSH Act, and arbitrarily suspending his services as director of the film ‘KizieAur Manny’, based on hearsay and anonymous complaints is a blatant violation of the enquiry and investigation procedure laid down in the POSH Act.
“We have requested the said studio to inform us as to why a POSH enquiry was not conducted as per the legal provisions of the act. We also want to know why our member was not provided with a copy of the written complaint against him, against him, why he was not given a chance to present his defense before an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and why a copy of the enquiry report was not served to him. On the basis of all these shortcomings, we have requested he company to revoke Chhabra’s suspension with immediate effect, Failing to do so, we will have to take further action, as per our rules and regulations.” said BN Tewari.
Ashoke and BN Tewari add that the federation will not cooperate with producers and studios that make arbitrary decisions without a fair enquiry into a matter of sexual at workplace involving their members.
Ashoke says, “Without enquiries, we will not stand with studios and production house that instantly want to suspend the services of an individual and later look into the matter. It will be great if they reached out to us and joined hands with us to enquire deeply into a matter, because we, too, have an ICC in place that has members from 24 crafts, office bearers of association and federation that will help us, together, investigate a complaint and reach a fair conclusion in a matter.”
FWICE and IFTDA has requested the aggrieved to first reach out to them and the studio or production house concerned, and allow them to enquire before heading to the press and shaming someone.