The Association of Malayalam Movie Artists’ General Secretary, Edavela Babu, last week justified the decision to reinstate actor Dileep, saying that he had been “expelled hastily” without “much thought on the subject”, The News Minute reported. Dileep was removed from the association in July 2017, over his alleged involvement in the abduction and sexual assault of an actress.

The guild for film industry members had decided to reinstate Dileep at a general body meeting in Kochi on June 24, after actor Mohanlal took charge as president. The decision prompted outrage from multiple quarters, including academics, filmmakers and artistes across the country. Four Malayalam actresses, including the assault survivor, resigned from AMMA in protest. The four are members of the Women in Cinema Collective, formed last year to represent women in the Malayalam film industry.

Babu’s defence comes in response to a letter by the Kannada Film Industry and the Film Industry for Rights and Equality to AMMA on July 1. The letter expressed disappointment at the association’s decision and asked it to revoke Dileep’s reinstatement until he was cleared of all charges. According to The News Minute, it was signed by 50 people from the Kannada film industry, including Chetan, Sruthi Hariharan, Shraddha Srinath, Rakshit Shetty and Prakash Rai.

“Although we of KFI [Kannada Film Industry] and FIRE [Film Industry for Rights and Equality] espouse the Constitutional notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ we deem AMMA’s reinstatement as even more inappropriate since the victim has been a member of AMMA and the accused has yet to be acquitted of all wrongdoing,” the letter read.

Babu responded to Chetan on July 3, asserting that the decision to reinstate the actor had been endorsed by all those present at the June 24 Annual General Meeting. “Legal opinion thereafter was that the Executive Committee cannot unilaterally take such an action [to expel Dileep]; moreover as per the bye-laws even dismissal can be only after the member has been found guilty by a competent court in an offence,” he said. “Presently Mr Dileep is only an accused and not a convict.”

Earlier, Mohanlal had defended the decision to reinstate Dileep saying that “The AMMA leadership has only gone by the basic democratic decency to stand with the unanimous opinion of the general body.” He also expressed solidarity with the survivor, saying that the “guild is with her”.

On February 17, 2017, the Malayalam actress had allegedly been waylaid by a group of men near Angamaly, Ernakulam, while returning from a shoot. The men had then allegedly sexually assaulted her in a moving car. Reports said that Dileep had allegedly planned the attack on the actress because of a personal grudge. Dileep and another co-conspirator had then hired a group of men to carry out the crime, according to the police.

Dileep turned down the decision to revoke his expulsion from the organisation on June 28. “While I thank my colleagues and office bearers of the association, I have decided to distance myself from any organisation until I prove my innocence,” he said.