The Harvey Weinstein saga has opened a window to the pervasive culture of sexual harassment in Hollywood, and in its aftermath, we have seen many survivors come forward with their horrific stories.
Of course, sexual harassment, rape and molestation by men in positions of power (of whom we expected more) is not just confined to the movie industry, and not just to Hollywood. India too has a nefarious list of men across a number of industries who have abused their positions of dominance, whose erstwhile public standing and popularity make their offence that much more shocking.
Several high-profile offenders have not only been called out for their actions, but also been arrested and put on trial, such as TVF’s Arunabh Kumar, former IPCC chief RK Pachauri, Tehelka’s Tarun Tejpal, and director Mahmood Farooqui.
But once the victims have come forward and put their faith in the police and courts to give them justice, has their faith been rewarded? A look at the current status of some of the most shocking cases leaves a lot to be desired for, unfortunately.
The case: In March this year, a number of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against the founder of The Viral Fever (TVF), Arunabh Kumar, surfaced after an anonymous blog post on Medium. Two weeks after the first woman spoke up against him, an FIR was registered against Kumar, alleging offences under Sections 354A (causing sexual harassment) and 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman by indecent words, gestures or acts) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This was followed by a second FIR a day later.
The status: Kumar was first arrested by the Mumbai police during their investigations on 22 April and released on bail. Subsequently, two charge-sheets were filed against him in May and July this year – he was granted bail in both the cases without any difficulty, as the offences with which he was charged are bailable offences. Kumar stepped down from his role at TVF in June, allegedly at the instigation of an investor in the company.
The case: In February 2015, a 29-year-old woman, who worked as a research analyst at The Energy and Research Institute (TERI), lodged a complaint against its chief RK Pachauri for sexually harassing her. The FIR listed various offences against the environmentalist, such as of him sending “obscene” WhatsApp messages, emails, and making unwanted physical advances. Pachauri was booked under Sections 354A (advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures), 354B (using criminal force against a woman), 354D (stalking), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 341 (wrongful restraint).
The status: TERI, in February 2016, appointed Pachauri as the executive vice-chairman despite the allegations against him. However, following severe criticism, Pachauri went on indefinite leave from the organisation; and soon after, TERI terminated its three-year contract with him.
Later in the same month, another woman – a former employee at TERI – alleged that she had been sexually harassed when she worked with him 10 years ago. A third woman came forward in March 2016, accusing him of harassment.
Most recently, in March 2017, the Delhi Police filed a Forensic Science Laboratory report in the case against him. The report stated that contrary to Pachauri’s insistence, no malware had tampered with the “obscene” text messages and emails that he had allegedly sent his former colleague.
The case: Tarun Tejpal, editor-in-chief of Tehelka magazine, was accused of raping a young female colleague in November 2013, in an elevator in a Goa hotel. The complainant alleged that she was sexually assaulted again the following day. The incident happened during the magazine’s annual conference, Think Fest, following which, a case was filed against him of rape, sexual harassment, and taking advantage of his official position. Tejpal spent six months in jail before being granted bail to attend the cremation of his mother. He has been out on bail since.
The status: Tejpal has filed a case in the Panaji division of the Bombay High Court to quash the proceedings against him. There is currently an interim stay on the commencement of his trial until the High Court consents to the final framing of charges (which are likely to include rape, wrongful confinement and wrongful restraint). Tejpal’s case in the Bombay High Court was adjourned on 1 November, and will only next be heard on 12 December 2017.
The case: Mahmood Farooqui, producer and co-director of Bollywood film Peepli Live, was arrested in June 2015 after a 35-year-old American researcher from Columbia University accused him of sexual assault in March that year. The complainant claimed that he had forced her to have oral sex with him in his residence at Delhi’s Sukhdev Vihar. He was booked under Section 375 of the IPC.
Vrinda Grover, counsel for the victimShe was reminded of the documentary of the Nirbhaya case, where the rapist had said that if the victim had not struggled, she would have survived. The accused (Farooqui) applied force and pushed her down. She then froze. She knew if she resisted the rape, the consequence would be worse.
The status: In August 2016 last year, a Delhi trial court sentenced the filmmaker to seven years’ imprisonment, plus a fine. However, on 25 September 2017, the Delhi High Court acquitted Farooqui, arguing that it was not clear that the prosecutrix had denied consent.
Justice Ashutosh Kumar, who delivered the judgment, was widely criticised by legal experts for his framing of how consent was to be understood in such situations, including his statement that a feeble “no” may mean a “yes”. Such a statement blatantly contradicts the wording of Section 375 of the IPC that clearly states that consent must be unequivocal, and that sex without obtaining such unequivocal consent is rape.
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