Samdish Bhatia has accused ScoopWhoop of not taking his complaint against co-founder and CEO Sattvik Mishra seriously. The company meanwhile has claimed blackmail.

Sattvik Mishra wearing white t-shirt, jeans and glasses, in centre of frame and looking at camera, seated on a couchSattvik Mishra/Instagram
Money Sexual Assault Tuesday, February 08, 2022 - 19:08

Allegations of sexual harassment and assault have been levelled against the Scoopwhoop's co-founder and CEO Sattvik Mishra, by a former employee Samdish Bhatia. Samdish was the face of ScoopWhoop Unscripted, which used to be the platform’s news vertical. He has alleged that he was sexually assaulted by Sattvik at the latter’s home, and that his wife and another ScoopWhoop co-founder Sriparna Tikekar was witness to the assault. He has also alleged that the company did not take his complaint seriously. Meanwhile, the news division of ScoopWhoop that was spun off— known as WhoopScoop which houses shows such as ‘Unscripted’ — has filed an injunction against the reporting of the allegations.  

On October 30, 2021, Samdish announced that he was no longer part of Unscripted and that he was leaving ScoopWhoop. On January 14, in an Instagram post, Samdish said he was assaulted, but did not reveal any details or name the alleged perpetrator. “After the trauma of what happened came the other traumatic experience of how the organisation chose to deal with it and how they continue to do so, since they have made a clear choice to side with one of the senior most people organisation,” he wrote, adding that he was “infantilised, disrespected and gaslighted.” In an Instagram post on February 7, he named Sattvik. “I was sexually assaulted by the CEO of ScoopWhoop Pvt Ltd, Sattvik Mishra. I have been denied my truth and punished for just wanting to live my life,” he alleged.

The lead up to the incident reportedly started with the sale of ScoopWhoop to the Good Glamm group, which was announced on October 20, 2021. However, as part of the deal, Unscripted couldn’t be sold as Indian rules mandate that foreign direct investment in Indian news media companies cannot exceed 26%. Due to this, it was decided that the news division would be spun off under a company called WhoopScoop, which would also house Unscripted.

To discuss the operational aspects and decide on the equity and other nitty-gritties, the two — Samdish and Sattvik met up at a bar with ScoopWhoop creative director Avalok Langer on October 7, following which after the bar was closing, continued at Sattvik Mishra’s house, with Avalok leaving. 

Allegations against Sattvik

Samdish, in his sexual assault complaint to the company, said that Sattvik made an “unwelcome, unsolicited, and uncalled assault” on him at the latter’s residence. When the two returned to Sattvik’s home, his wife and the company’s co-founder Sriparna Tikekar were also present, Samdish said in his complaint, along with the couple’s infant daughter, their househelp and a cat. He accused Sattvik of verbal and physical sexual assault while the two were alone together, and said that Sattvik wanted sexual favours in return for Samdish getting a higher equity in the company. Samdish also said that Sriparna witnessed the incident from another room but did not intervene. 

Samdish said he informed Avalok Langer of the incident over a phone call after he left Sattvik’s residence. He made three demands in his complaint — that a committee be constituted without Sriparna as a member to look into his complaints, that Sattvik step down as CEO, and that a thorough and impartial investigation be carried out. 

He added that on October 9, a day after the incident, Avalok called Samdish to the premises of the company “on the pretext of talking about the role of the undersigned [Samdish] and Mr Langer”. It adds that Avalok “gathered information” about the night in question and told Samdish that Rishi Mukherjee (present interim CEO and another co-founder) was worried about the deal with Good Glamm being jeopardised if the matter was out in public.

Two days after the incident, Sattvik allegedly sent Samdish an apology. 

Samdish had filed the complaint with the ICC and reportedly sent in his resignation on October 20, the same day that ScoopWhoop’s takeover with Good Glamm group had been announced. 

Sattvik denies sexual assault complaint

The suit filed by WhoopScoop asking for an injunction said that Samdish had been demanding more equity as the news vertical Unscripted was “purely an outcome of his labour” and that he was “picking up fights with team members”. The injunction suit said that Samdish’s complaint and resignation were received on October 20 whereas his contract had already ended on September 30 and was pending renewal. 

Sattvik denied the matter to Newslaundry, and said the conversation did not have “any sexual undertones”. He said that both he and Samdish were drunk, and Samdish was demanding 25% equity in the new venture, and that he wanted several people fired. He told the news website that Samdish had become rowdy. “In my drunken state, hardly able to stand, I fumbled around and tried to push him out of my house. I got very aggressive (something I deeply regret). It got rough, and ugly,” Sattvik said. 

Sattvik further alleged that Samdish’s complaint was a means of extorting money from the company, saying Samdish had demanded Rs 7 crore in cash. This was later revised to Rs 3.5 crore, he said, with several negotiations. Samdish denied the same to Newslaundry, and instead said this was hush money he was offered to not go public with his allegations. 

The cases now in court

Newslaundry reported that Samdish moved court against Sattvik and Sriparna in November. On January 19, WhoopScoop moved court seeking an injunction to prevent the allegations from being made public. 

The plea for injunction filed by WhoopScoop said that Samdish’s complaint was transferred to ScoopWhoop, and said that the complaint was of a “peculiar nature” since the allegations were made by a man; they sought legal opinion on how to adjudicate the matter. 

“That despite the Anti-Sexual Harassment policy of the Plaintiff being women specific, as is the law under POSH Act, it was decided to form a 2 member committee in line with the POSH Act. Since the Plaintiff company is a new venture, it had very few employees and as such the same were not senior enough to preside over any such committee or appreciate the sensitivity of the subject matter in question,” it said.

On January 6, Samdish launched his own channel, ‘Unfiltered with Samdish’, and on the same day, he received an email from WhoopScoop media’s “grievance team” regarding the complaint filed, and that they were taking the complaint seriously. 

On February 6, Sattvik, in an Instagram post, announced that he was stepping down as CEO. “Last few months have been extremely challenging for me and my family with constant threats and mental harassment by an ex-colleague. Addressing this matter and ensuring my family’s well being is my top most priority right now,” he wrote. 

In his response to the grievance team, Samdish asked who the grievance team comprised. On January 12, when he did not receive a response, Samdish sent a follow up stating that he was willing to provide any assistance, supporting documents etc., but asked if the grievance team was functioning in the capacity of an Internal Complaints Committee and if yes what its composition was, and if the team has the same powers and jurisdiction as an ICC does under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act. In the injunction plea, WhoopScoop had said one person was hired externally and one was from ScoopWhoop. 

It was after this, on January 14, that he put out an Instagram post that he was assaulted.

In a follow up on February 7, he named Sattvik. “I was sexually assaulted by the CEO of ScoopWhoop Pvt Ltd, Sattvik Mishra. I have been denied my truth and punished for just wanting to live my life,” he said.

“I have been infantilised, threatened with 'offers' of huge sums of money to shut up and move on and I have been told by the people who run Scoopwhoop that any 'misunderstanding' can be sorted out and that I should just get over this and get back to being the 'chirpy chirpy Samdish' - their exact words,” he wrote.

In 2017, another ScoopWhoop co-founder — Suparn Pandey — had been accused of sexual harassment and assault over two years. According to a report from Catch News at the time, the complaint at the time named Sattvik and Sriparna of abetting the harassment. A report on the status of investigation by the Quint in 2018 was taken down due to a court order with media outlets restrained from reporting on this issue while it is sub-judice.

TNM has reached out to ScoopWhoop’s interim CEO Rishi Mukherjee for a response. This story will be updated if and when they respond.

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