On Friday, the Karnataka High Court passed an interim order directing the Cubbon Park police not to arrest south Indian actor Arjun Sarja till November 14. The court said that no arrest will be made in the sexual harassment case filed by actor Sruthi Hariharan against him till the next date of hearing. Actor Sruthi has accused Arjun Sarja of sexually harassing her during the shooting of the bi-lingual film Vismaya (in Kannada) and Nibunan (in Tamil).
Justice PS Dinesh Kumar was hearing a petition filed by Arjun to quash the FIR registered against him in the Cubbon Park Police Station. Justice Dinesh noted that since the incident occurred three years ago, there was no need to arrest Arjun Sarja until the next hearing. He, however, permitted the police to continue the investigation and did not quash the FIR.
Senior advocate BV Acharya, appearing for Arjun, said there were differences in the content of Sruthi’s social media post on October 20 and her complaint with the police. Acharya accused Sruthi of researching the Indian Penal Code and deliberately invoking sections 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A (sexual harassment) and 506 (criminal intimidation) in her complaint.
He said that section 354 of the IPC was deliberately invoked since it is a non-bailable offence. Acharya argued that the allegations made in the complaint had happened at a workplace and hence there was a legal bar on invoking provisions of IPC when Sruthi could have invoked sections under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Arjun’s lawyer contended that the said sequence was shot in front of several people including the director and since Arjun and Sruthi were cast as husband and wife in the film, hugging was part of the script. He also argued that Sruthi had agreed to do the scene.
The Additional Advocate General will argue for prosecution on November 14.
On October 27, actor Sruthi Hariharan filed a complaint of sexual harassment and criminal intimidation with the Cubbon Park Police and an FIR was registered.
In the complaint, Sruthi stated that she was sexually harassed in November 2015 while rehearsing for scenes in the film Vismaya at a bungalow near Presidency College in Hebbal in Bengaluru. She was portraying the role of Arjun Sarja's wife in the film.
She revealed that she did not take legal action immediate because she feared that it would jeopardise her career since Arjun Sarja was an established actor.