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Sun TV Sexual Harassment Case- Response from Women Journalists #Vaw

To,

The Board of Directors,

Sun TV Network Limited Corporate Office

Murasoli Maran Towers
73, MRC Nagar Main Road,  MRC Nagar,
Chennai – 600 028

30.03.2013

*Sub: Response to Mr J.Ravindran re. Case at Sun TV*

Dear ,

This is in response to the e-mail dated 28.03.2013 sent to us by Mr. J.
Ravindran, counsel for , in which he claims that the allegations
against the company in our press statement, *Eclipsing Women’s Rights:
Sexual Harassment at Sun TV –  NWMI demands immediate reinstatement of
Woman Journalist* dated 28.30.13, are “totally false and baseless”.

We would like to bring to your notice the following:

1.      The “Code of Conduct” of the Company demands “Strict compliance
with applicable laws, rules and regulations. The Board and the senior
management are expected to comply with all applicable laws, rules and
regulations in letter and spirit.” However, Sun TV Ltd. appears to have
blatantly flouted the orders of the highest court of the land, namely
the “Vishaka
Guidelines  against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Guidelines and norms
laid down by the Hon’ble in Vishaka and Ors Vs. State of
Rajasthan and Others (JT 1997 (7) SC 384) (hereinafter the ‘Vishaka
Guidelines’).

2.      According to the Vishaka Guidelines, which is the prevailing law of
the land, “Sexual Harassment” is defined as the following:

“ Sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour
(whether directly or by implication) as: a) Physical contact and advances;
b) A demand or request for sexual favours; c) Sexually coloured remarks; d)
Showing pornography; e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal
conduct of sexual nature.

Where any of these acts is committed in circumstances where-under the
victim of such conduct has a reasonable apprehension that in relation to
the victim’s employment or work whether she is drawing salary, or
honorarium or voluntary, whether in government, public or private
enterprise, such conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and
safety problem. It is discriminatory, for instance, when the woman has
reasonable grounds to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in
connection with her employment or work, including recruiting or promotion,
or when it creates a hostile work environment. Adverse consequences might
be visited if the victim does not consent to the conduct in question or
raises any objection thereto.”

3.      The Vishaka Guidelines further state: “It shall be the duty of the
employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions
to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to
provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of
acts, of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.”

There is no evidence that this requirement has been complied with at the
Sun TV. Neither were preventive steps taken to ensure a conducive
workplace, nor were procedures in place for the resolution and settlement
of acts of sexual harassment at the workplace. This is illegal and in
contempt of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

4.      The Vishaka Guidelines require that “an appropriate complaint
mechanism should be created in the employer’s organisation for redress of
the complaint made by the victim. Such complaint mechanism should ensure
time bound treatment of complaints.”

According to our information, such a complaints mechanism is not in place
at .

5.      According to the Vishaka Guidelines, “The said complaints mechanism
should provide, where necessary, a Complaints Committee, a special
counsellor or other  support service, including the maintenance of
confidentiality. It must be noted that the Complaints Committee should be
headed by a woman and not less than half of its member should be women.
Further, to prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from
senior levels, such Complaints Committee should involve a third party,
either NGO or other body who is familiar with the issue of sexual
harassment.”

6.      The Hon’ble Supreme Court is fully cognisant of the vulnerable
position of complainants and witnesses in complaints of sexual harassment
filed against superiors, and therefore lays down that, “In particular, it
should ensure that victims or witnesses are not victimized or discriminated
against while dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.”

We find that this principle has not been complied with in the present case
involving Ms Akila, the complainant. Far from a fair redressal of her
complaint, she has been further victimised by placing her under suspension
on grounds of complaints from other women employees, which strains
credulity in a workplace which is reportedly hostile to women employees due
to the actions of senior management.

7.      In compliance with the law of the land, we demand that an
Independent Inquiry be constituted. Since there was no existing Complaints
Committee, the Independent Inquiry Committee must be set up on the
guidelines under Vishakha mentioned in Point 5 above.

8.      Ms. Akila should be reinstated and allowed to perform her duties in
a conducive work environment. Mr V. Raja and Mr Vetrivendan should remain
under suspension pending the Independent Inquiry to ensure that the Inquiry
is genuinely unbiased and conducted without undue pressure.

We believe that these steps, while compliant with the prevailing law,
might also contribute to the adherence of the Sun TV Code of Conduct to
“conduct the business of the Company in accordance with applicable laws,
rules, regulations, highest standards of business ethics and to detect and
prevent unethical conduct of business.”

Sincerely yours,

The Working Council,

On Behalf of the Network of Women in Media, India

1.      Ammu Joseph, Bangalore

2.      Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai

3.      Laxmi Murthy,

4.      Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata

5.      Sandhya Taksale, Pune

6.      Sameera Khan,

7.      Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai

8.      Ranjita Biswas,

9.      Malti Mehta, Ahmedabad

10.  K.A. Beena, Thiruvananthapuram

11.  Sonal Kellogg, Delhi

12.  Parul Sharma, Delhi

13.  Padmalatha Ravi, Bangalore

14.  Melanie Priya Kumar, Bangalore

15.  Chitra Ahanthem, Imphal

16.  Manjira Mojumdar, Kolkata

17. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

 

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