Internal Complaints Committee
Policy on Prevention of Sexual Harassment
We, the Federation of City Sabhas, Chennai, have observed with a heavy heart the allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment within the classical arts and theatre community in Chennai, India.
As a group that wants to further the cause of classical arts and increase its reach in the country, we acknowledge that the fear of sexual harassment is a great deterrent to the learning, appreciation and performance of these art forms.
We understand that the art field that we are a part of is a diverse and complex one, and there is an intertwining of various kinds of hierarchical and non-hierarchical relationships and different power structures at play.
An artist’s life extends from performances to personal classes, and sometimes beyond that as well. It is therefore essential that every person who is a part of this intricate structure understands and realizes the gravity of the responsibility in ensuring the integrity and holistic development of the art and the impact of sexual harassment allegations on the purity of the relationships in this forum, and also the zero-tolerance to sexual harassment that the Federation of City Sabhas has towards any individual who commits or resorts to any form of sexual harassment.
We are committed to provide a safe space free of any kind of abuse or sexual harassment to artists – in their capacity as performers, students and teachers, rasikas, representatives from the media and any other person who has a grievance against an individual(s) involved with the Federation of City Sabhas.
In furtherance of our commitment, a prevention of sexual harassment policy (“Policy”) has been adopted by the Federation of City Sabhas to put in place a mechanism for redress of grievances that are along the lines of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (also referred to as the “Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act”). Keeping in mind the complexities that might arise in dealing with complaints of harassment in this context, the aim of this policy is to enable complaints that go beyond the strict confines of the 2013 Act and provide for a grievance redressal mechanism that is faithful to the principles of natural justice. This gender neutral Policy goes beyond the statutory definition of “workplace” to cover acts of harassment that may occur even outside Sabha venues, as the art fraternity has a large interaction radius and sphere of influence and an extended environment that goes beyond Sabha venues and performance places. The Federation acknowledges with gratitude the contributions of Ms. B. Poongkhulali, who provided the first draft of the Policy and Ms. Uma Ramanathan, Ms. Sudha Raghunathan, Ms. Usha Dinesh, Dr. R. Thara and Dr. B.Vivekanand who have provided their inputs in drafting this Policy. There are also several other artists who have given valuable suggestions in framing this Policy and the Federation thanks them all for sharing their concerns and providing suggestions. This Policy is the first of its kind and we foresee that it will evolve according to the needs of, and inputs from the art fraternity and the people associated with it. The Policy is only a broad framework which will guide the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in the process of its inquiry into complaints and the ICC is free to make any modifications and/or additions to the rules of procedure while dealing with each complaint, based on the needs, facts and circumstances of the particular complaint, after due notice to the parties involved in the complaint. The Policy should be read in harmony with individual Sabha policies, if any. The same is outlined in detail below:
Scope: This Policy shall be applicable as follows:
- To all acts of sexual harassment, which takes place in the premises of all the venues hired or owned by any Member Sabha before, after, or during an event conducted, sponsored and/or organized by the Member Sabha;
- To all acts of sexual harassment committed by (i) an artist (including the outsourced staff, technicians, etc., hired by an artist) who is scheduled to perform in any event conducted and/or organized by a Member Sabha, (ii) an organizer, manager, trustee, board member, staff (temporary or permanent), support staff, or member of a Member Sabha;
- To all acts of sexual harassment committed by (i) a member of the audience during an event conducted and/or organized by a Member Sabha, (ii) any individual hired by the Member Sabha or involved in the functioning of any event conducted and/or organized by the Member Sabha; irrespective of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, nationality, citizenship, caste, social origin, social status, indigenous heritage, disability, age, marital status, capacity to bear children, pregnancy, sexual orientation, sexuality, genetic features or any other status or feature of the parties concerned.
- Aggrieved person in relation to this Policy is an individual of any age, whether a performing artist or not, who alleges to have been subject to any act of Sexual Harassment by the Respondent.
- Respondent(s) is an individual(s) against whom an Aggrieved Person has made a Complaint under this policy.
- Member Sabha refers to the Sabha(s) who are a part of the Federation of Chennai Sabhas (hereinafter abbreviated to “the Federation”) on the date of this policy, and all subsequent members to the Federation.
Internal Complaints Committee (hereinafter abbreviated to “ICC”): (a) The ICC is a committee appointed constituted by the Federation to inquire into complaints of sexual harassment. It shall consist of (i) the Presiding Officer, Ms. Uma Ramanathan (Advocate & Mediator) (ii) a minimum of  internal members of whom one will be a nominee of the Federation of City Sabhas and the balance  members will be chosen by the Federation, preferably from among artists and persons experienced in dealing with such issues (hereinafter referred to as “Internal Members”), (hereinafter collectively referred to as the “ICC Members”). (b) In the event any of the Internal Members or the Presiding Officer choosing to resign their position, or being incapacitated, or the Federation deeming it fit to replace them, the Federation can remove and replace that person by passing a resolution to that effect. (c) In the event of a situation where the Aggrieved Person or the Respondent expresses a reasonable apprehension of bias from any of the ICC Members, the following non-exhaustive conditions shall be considered for replacing any ICC Member:
- A close friend/ relative / mentor/ student/ present or former partner/ frequent accompanist/ colleague in employment or in any organisation of the Aggrieved Person or the Respondent, and this relationship has the capacity to influence and give rise to an apprehension of bias in the favour of either the Aggrieved Person or the Respondent while determining the case;
- Facing any inquiry relating to sexual harassment or found guilty of sexual harassment
- Punished for any misbehaviour or misconduct
- Any other reason that may cause apprehension to either the Aggrieved Person or the Respondent that there is reason to believe that neutrality is compromised, either due to bias or due to any other reason, if that member would be to determine their case Provided that if the Aggrieved Person or the Respondent is to cite any of the above conditions to demand a replacement, the reason must be explicit, sound and sustainable reasonable apprehension; and communicated to the remaining ICC Members in writing. Prior to taking up an inquiry, the ICC Members shall declare in writing that they do not have any direct or indirect conflict of interest that would prevent them from discharging their duties as an ICC Member in that inquiry without fear or favour.
Sexual Harassment includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication or by any mode of electronic communication on one to one basis) that occurs in a Place of Offence namely:
- physical contact and advances;
- a demand or request for sexual favours;
- making sexually coloured remarks;
- showing pornography;
- minimizing and comparing with others with an intent to take control and subjugate;
- any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature;
- innuendous; or
- threatening to disclose or disclosing confidential information that one is privy to owing to a teacher-student, mentor- mentee relationship, counselor-student relationship, organizer-performer relationship, or any other kind of relationship that has emerged through training, classes, or consultations in order to obtain sexual favours.
Further, the following circumstances, among other circumstances, if it occurs or is present in relation to or connected with any act or behavior of Sexual Harassment may amount to Sexual Harassment:
- implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in their career/ chances of performing / course of learning;
- implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in their career / chances of performing/ course of learning;
- implied or explicit threat about their present or future career / chances of performing/ course of learning;
- interference with their work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile professional environment for them;
- humiliating treatment likely to affect their health, reputation, opportunity, or safety; or
- unnecessary and inappropriate touching that goes beyond what is normally expected of a teacher in the ordinary course of training, or coloured remarks about a person’s body or physical form that oversteps the reasonable boundaries of teacher-student/ mentor-mentee/ artist-accompanying artist/ artist-rasika/ organizer-performer / any other appropriate relationship.
Place of Offence
(a) Place of offence includes the place where the Aggrieved Person was allegedly subjected to Sexual Harassment by the Respondent which includes, inter-alia, the venue or other place where events of the Member Sabha are conducted, the venue where classes were conducted, the venue where the Aggrieved Person met the Respondent in furtherance of interactions around the art form, and any extended environment where the Aggrieved Person was in contact with the Respondent which led to the instance of Sexual Harassment.
(b) The ICC will not be constrained by territorial jurisdiction to hear a case and the ICC can hear the Complaint even in the event the alleged instance(s) of Sexual Harassment by the Respondent goes beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the Republic of India.
Representative of the Member Sabha refers to an individual appointed by each Member Sabha to implement the recommendations of the ICC if it pertains to that particular Member Sabha.
Provided that in the event this Representative of the Member Sabha is the Respondent, the Member Sabha shall make immediate steps to appoint a different Representative for the course of that proceeding as an immediate measure, and take appropriate action against that Representative as per the recommendations of the ICC if the allegations are found to be true.
Prevention of Sexual Harrassment:
No person shall be subject to sexual harassment at the venue of the Member Sabha, or by a person involved with the Member Sabha in any capacity, inter-alia, artist, organizer, manager, staff, support staff, member, rasika, etc.
Complaint of Sexual Harrassment:
Any Aggrieved Person may make, in writing, a complaint of Sexual Harassment to the Secretary of the Federation of City Sabhas and send the same by e-mail to email@example.com, within a period of three (3) years from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three (3) years from the date of the last incident (hereinafter referred to as the “Complaint”).
Provided that where such Complaint cannot be made in writing, the Presiding Officer or the Federation shall render all reasonable assistance to the Aggrieved Person for making the complaint in writing:
Further provided that the Internal Complaints Committee may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, extend the above mentioned time period of three (3) years if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the Aggrieved Person from filing a complaint within such period.
Where the Aggrieved Person is unable to make a complaint due to their physical or mental incapacity or temporary unavailability in the city of Chennai, India at the time of making the Complaint or death or otherwise, their legal heir or such other legal representative as may be prescribed by the Internal Complaints Committee may make a complaint under this Section. The ICC can make use of video conferencing facilities for the purpose of enquiry if any of the parties are not available to be present in person before the ICC.
After receipt of the complaint, the Secretary of the Federation shall within 3 working days scrutinize and forward the complaint to the Presiding Officer and thereafter in accordance with the instructions of the Presiding Officer forward the complaint to the Respondent..
The Respondent shall within a period of seven (7) days of receipt of the complaint reply to the complaint to the Presiding Officer with a copy for the complainant. In the event the Respondent does not reply to the complaint within the prescribed period, the proceedings of the ICC shall commence despite the absence of the Respondent.
The Presiding Officer shall meanwhile in consultation with the Federation appoint the other ICC members and communicate the same to the Aggrieved Person and the Respondent.
The ICC members shall issue notice to the Aggrieved Person and the Respondent providing an option to chose conciliation with seven days of receipt of the Respondent’s reply to the complaint.
In the event of the Aggrieved Person not choosing conciliation, inquiry shall be initiated within ten days of receipt of the Respondent’s reply to the complaint.
In the event of failure of conciliation, inquiry shall be initiated within seven days of the failure report endorsed by the members of ICC.
The Internal Complaints Committee, before initiating an inquiry, may take steps to settle the matter through conciliation if the Aggrieved Person so requests the same.
Provided that no monetary settlement shall be made as a basis for conciliation.
Where a settlement has been arrived at, no further inquiry shall be conducted.
Where a settlement has not been arrived at, or where any term or condition of the settlement has not been complied with by the Respondent, the Committee shall commence an inquiry.
Inquiry into Complaint:
In the event the above-mentioned conciliation fails, the ICC shall proceed to make an inquiry into the complaint. The ICC shall issue notice to the Complainant and Respondent indicating the date, time, venue for inquiry requesting presence of parties.
No complaint will be entertained in the absence of parties.
The Aggrieved Person and the Respondent maybe allowed third party representation, which includes legal counsel, as long as the Aggrieved Person and the Respondent are present in person during the course of the ICC proceedings and are available to answer questions directly posed by the ICC as and when needed .
The Aggrieved Person and the Respondent, during the course of inquiry, be given an opportunity to be heard and a copy of the statements submitted by both parties during the course of the inquiry shall be made available to both of them enabling them to adequately prosecute or defend themselves. Provided further that during the inquiry process the ICC has the right to terminate the proceedings or to give an ex-parte decision if either of the parties fails, without sufficient cause, to present themselves for three (3) consecutive hearings.
The inquiry shall be completed within a period of 30 days.
Further, the Internal Complaints Committee can also communicate with the Aggrieved Person and/ or the Respondent through video conferencing and other mutually accepted modes of communication, in the event the Aggrieved Person and/or the Respondent are not present in Chennai, India, or for reasons to be stated in writing, being unable to be physically present.
The ICC is at liberty to audio and/or video record any part of its proceedings and the ICC shall keep such recording confidential.
Action Pending Inquiry:
During the pendency of an inquiry, on a written request made by the Aggrieved Person the Internal Complaints Committee may recommend:
- Suspension of the Respondent’s performances at the venue of any Member Sabha;
- Grant such other relief to the Aggrieved Person as may be deemed fit including but not limited to measures ensuring that any necessary interactions between the Aggrieved person and the Respondent is restricted On the recommendation of the Internal Complaints Committee made under Sub-section (a) above, the Representatives of the Member Sabhas shall promptly implement such recommendations and send a written report of such implementation to the ICC.
On the completion of the inquiry under Section 6 of the Policy, the Internal Complaints Committee shall provide a written report of its findings to the Federation within a period of ten (10) days from the date of completion of the inquiry, and such report shall be made available to the concerned parties.
Where the Internal Complaints Committee arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the Respondent has not been proved, it shall recommend that no action is required to be taken in the matter.
Where the Internal Complaints Committee arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the Respondent has been proved, it shall recommend any of the following:
- Ask the Aggrieved Person the nature of redressal that the Aggrieved Person is seeking,
- Ask the Respondent to issue a public apology to the Aggrieved Person;
- To suspend the performance of the Respondent from any number of the Member Sabhas for any duration as the ICC deems fit, ranging from suspension for one event to a lifelong ban in the Member Sabha/Sabhas;
- To revoke any award or honour bestowed upon the Respondent;
- Payment of compensation to the Aggrieved Person by the Respondent; and
- Any other recommendation that the ICC deems fit in the light of the conduct of the Respondent.
The Representatives of the Member Sabhas shall act upon the recommendation of the Internal Complaints Committee made under sub-section (iii) above within 7 days of its receipt and send a written report of such action to the Internal Complaints Committee.
Determination of Compensation:
For the purpose of determining the sums to be paid to the Aggrieved Person under Section 8 (c)(iv) of the Policy, the Internal Complaints Committee shall have regard to:
- the mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused to the Aggrieved Person;
- the loss in the career opportunity due to the incident of Sexual Harassment;
- medical expenses incurred by the victim for physical or psychiatric treatment;
- the income and financial status of the Respondent; and
- feasibility of such payment in lump sum or in instalments.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Right to Information Act, 2005, as amended, the contents of the complaint made under Section 4 of the Policy, the identity and addresses of the Aggrieved Person, the Respondent and witnesses, any information relating to conciliation and inquiry proceedings, recommendations of the ICC shall not be published, communicated or made known to the public, press and media in any manner. However, if there is a finding of guilt under the provisions of the Policy the Federation shall disclose the name of the Respondent in its website or in any other form.
Provided that information may be disseminated regarding the justice secured to any victim of Sexual Harassment under the Policy without disclosing the name, address, identity or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the Aggrieved Person and witnesses.
The details of the ongoing ICC proceedings under this policy shall also not be disclosed by the Aggrieved Party, Respondent, Representatives of the Member Sabha, witnesses, and other people involved in the proceedings including but not limited to the ICC Members personally or through a third party on any social media forum/ to members of the press/ bloggers/ art news related websites and online and offline forums.
Duties of the Member Sabhas:
The Representatives of the Member Sabhas shall:
- provide a safe environment at the venue of the Member Sabhas;
- notify to the various stakeholders of the Member Sabhas including but not limited to the artists, managers, staff, members, audience, etc., about the Policy which includes the consequences of Sexual Harassment;
- organize awareness programs at regular intervals for sensitizing the public with the provisions of the Policy and organize orientation programmes for the members of the Internal Complaints Committee;
- provide necessary facilities to the Internal Complaints Committee for dealing with the complaint and conducting an inquiry;
- assist in securing the attendance of the Respondent and witnesses before the Internal Complaints Committee;
- make available such information to the Internal Complaints Committee as it may require;
- provide assistance to the Aggrieved Person if she or he so chooses to file a complaint in relation to the offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or any other relevant law for the time being in force;
- cause to initiate action, under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or any other relevant law for the time being in force, against the perpetrator, and/or if the Aggrieved Person so desires against the Respondent;
- treat Sexual Harassment as a misconduct and initiate action for such misconduct; and
- monitor the timely submission of reports by the Internal Complaints Committee.