December 21, 2018 / 1:32 PM / 6 months ago

Indian police probe Genpact staffers after exec's suicide over sexual harassment allegation

NEW DELHI, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Indian police are investigating two women employees and members of an internal complaints panel of a local unit of U.S.-based tech services provider Genpact after an executive accused of sexual misconduct committed suicide, two officers said on Friday.

The wife of Swaroop Raj, an assistant vice president at Genpact India, has accused the company of driving him to kill himself, saying he was suspended without due investigation, police said.

The case - a rare instance of police questioning the alleged victims of sexual assault and Genpact India's internal complaints committee - highlights the risks associated with the naming and shaming of individuals in the so-called #MeToo movement against sexual predators.

Raj was suspended after the staffers made serious charges of sexual harassment against him, Genpact said in a statement.

"The complaint was being duly investigated by the internal complaints committee as per the mandated process," Genpact said. "To have a fair and uninfluenced inquiry, he was placed under temporary suspension pending the closure of the inquiry."

Raj, 35, left a note saying he killed himself because the allegations had irrevocably tarnished his reputation, Nishank Sharma, a police officer in Greater Noida region, on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi, told Reuters.

Police have registered a preliminary complaint for abetting suicide against at least seven employees of Genpact, including the two women who accused Raj of sexual misconduct, Munish Chauhan, another police official, said.

India's anti-sexual harassment laws mandate that all firms with more than 10 employees must have an internal complaints committee (ICC) to examine cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.

The committee, which comprises one external member, is empowered to function as a civil court - it can summon and enforce attendance, examine persons on oath as well as ask for documents.

The police move to widen the probe to the ICC will ignite broader concerns among human resource professionals and anti-harassment panels dealing with sexual misconduct allegations at the workplace, experts said.

"This may make ICC members sceptical about the personal liability involved in these cases," said Vishal Kedia, the founder of legal compliance services firm ComplyKaro. "Some members may even step down to avoid repercussions like this."

In a 2014 case, a woman approached the Bombay High Court following her husband's suicide, alleging he killed himself because of harassment by ICC members who found him guilty of sexual misconduct.

The court ruled that the ICC could be not be held accountable for the suicide of the man, a teacher in western Maharashtra state.

Raj's case could also turn the focus on the training given to ICC members, said Renu Jethani, a senior human resource professional at a UK-based company.

"They must be adequately prepared since they are dealing with people's lives and careers," she said. (Reporting by Blassy Boben Editing by Sankalp Phartiyal and Sunil Nair)

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