The Board of Directors,
Sun TV Network Limited Corporate Office
Murasoli Maran Towers
73, MRC Nagar Main Road, MRC Nagar,
Chennai – 600 028
Sub: Response to Mr J.Ravindran re. Sexual Harassment Case at Sun TV
Dear Board of Directors,
This is in response to the e-mail dated 28.03.2013 sent to us by Mr. J. Ravindran, counsel for Sun TV, 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 Supreme Court 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 Sun TV Network.
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.”
The Working Council,
On Behalf of the Network of Women in Media, India
1. Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
2. Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai
3. Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
4. Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
5. Sandhya Taksale, Pune
6. Sameera Khan, Mumbai
7. Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai
8. Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata
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