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Political Parties not bound to form Internal Complaints Committee under POSH Act, 2013 : Kerala High Court

Political Parties not bound to form Internal Complaints Committee under POSH Act, 2013 : Kerala High Court

Written by Shaurya Mahajan

On Thursday, 17 March 2022, the Kerala High Court in the case of Centre for Constitutional Rights Research and Advocacy v. State of Kerala & Ors. observed that since in the case of political parties there is no employer-employee relationship among its members, they are therefore not legally liable to establish Internal Complaints Committee as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

The bench comprised of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly.

The observation was made by the court in the PIL moved by the Centre for Constitutional Rights Research (CCRRA) which sought directions to constitute Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) within political parties in accordance with the POSH Act 2013. The PIL named Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) as the respondents in the case.

The main argument raised by the petitioners was that all although all institutions having more than 10 employees should have an Internal Complaints Committee, unfortunately, despite the legislation coming into force, the implementation has not happened either in letter or spirit in the political organizations.

Advocate Sandhya Raju who appeared for the CCRRA also argued that such action amounts to grave illegality as per the act and that the state is bound to take action in accordance with the Act. It was further contended that the absence of a grievance redressal mechanism against sexual harassment for members of the respondent associations is violative of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 (Fundamental Rights) of the Constitution of India.

Analysing the act, the court was of the opinion that the basic requirement to become an employee is that one should be employed at a workplace.

It was further held in the same judgement that film production houses have the responsibility to form an Internal Complaints Committee as per the POSH Act, keeping in with the observation that each film unit in an industry is an establishment and an ICC needs to be constituted for that purpose.

This order was passed by the court in the PIL filed by Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) for establishment of a grievance redressal mechanism in the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), the body of Malayalam movie actors, as regards prevention of sexual harassment of women at workplaces.

Therefore, the court has observed that as per the POSH Act 2013, whilst political parties are not legally liable to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee, film production houses are.

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