Filmmaker Vikas Bahl had been accused of sexually harassing a former employee of the erstwhile company Phantom Films in 2015. This year, he was given a clean chit in the case by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). He was also reinstated as the director of Super 30. Phantom was founded by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena and was jointly owned by Reliance Entertainment.

In a latest development, a HuffPost India article claims that the ICC exonerated Vikas Bahl without following established procedures, interviewing all witnesses and assessing the evidence that was available. The report by the committee says that the ICC inquired into the allegations on Bahl’s request. The panel was also formed by Phantom Films, not Reliance Entertainment, leading to a biased investigation.

As per Indian laws, inquiries cannot be established at the behest of a person who has been accused of sexual harassment at the workplace.

As per Indian laws, inquiries cannot be established at the behest of a person who has been accused of sexual harassment at the workplace. According to HuffPost India, the ICC was set up just before the release of Vikas Bahl directorial Super 30, and the way the investigation was conducted raised concerns that the ulterior aim might have been to rehabilitate Bahl rather than protect the women employees of Phantom Films.

The committee was chaired by Dipa Motwane, Vikramaditya Motwane’s mother, and the panel members did not call the other two women to depose despite being aware that their testimonies have been submitted in a defamation case filed by Vikas Bahl in a Mumbai court. After Huffpost India had reported in 2018 about the sexual harassment case, Bahl, denying the allegations, had instead filed a defamation case against the organisation as well as his partners Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena.

Legal experts have said that the treatment of the case highlights the lack of clarity around the implementation of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH). Mihira Sood, a Supreme Court advocate, told HuffPost India that the PoSH did not foresee many scenarios that #MeToo has thrown up, so most of the investigations were done outside the framework of PoSH.

In Vikas Bahl’s case, Phantom did not set up an ICC when the allegations were levelled against him four years back, nor did they form one in 2018, when the case was reported in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

In Vikas Bahl’s case, Phantom did not set up an ICC when the allegations were levelled against him four years back, nor did they form one in 2018, when the case was reported in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Documents collected by HuffPost India also suggest that the ICC committee that was finally formed on Bahl’s request rushed through the inquiry and did not even share all the information with the survivor.

Vikas Bahl had requested an ICC to conduct an inquiry so that he gets an opportunity to clear his name on 12 March 2019. On 18 March, Phantom Films stated that the PoSH Act does not allow a company to start an inquiry without a formal complaint. In his case, the complainant had resigned by then nor did she give consent for an ICC.

The complainant stated that on 19 March she received a mail from the lawyer of Phantom films, Persis Hodiwala. To which, she told Hodiwala to consider her statement to Huffpost India as a formal complaint. She also added that she would not like to attend the ICC meetings nor participate in further proceedings.

Hodiwala replied saying that if the complainant fails to attend three ICC meetings, the case will be closed. Hodiwala’s emails and the report state that the committee was formed by Phantom Films and not Reliance Entertainment. Sood told HuffPost India that ethically, the complaint should have been passed on to the Local Complaints’ Committee for an unbiased investigation.

HuffPost India further found out that the ICC did not even interview witnesses who could have corroborated the complainant’s testimony. The ICC transcripts show that the committee hadn’t reached out to Anurag Kashyap about his confrontation with Bahl in 2017 regarding the latter’s alleged misbehaviour with women employees.

Kashyap had filed an affidavit when he was summoned in the defamation case and the affidavit mentions that his girlfriend Shubhra Shetty was also privy to a conversation about Bahl’s behaviour. However, Shetty confirmed to HuffPost India, the ICC did not ask her to depose.