news Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 05:30

The News Minute| July 1, 2014| 7.20 pm IST

A metropolitan court in Chennai, today issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against V Raja, the former Chief editor of Sun TV News channel. The court issued NBA against Raja, currently working as a consultant with the same channel, for failing to turn up in court multiple times on a sexual harassment complaint against him.

The case dates back to March 2013 when a distressed news anchor S Akila approached Tamil Nadu police with a sexual harassment complaint against Raja and Vetrivendhan (news bulletin schedule coordinator).

Akila joined Sun TV in December 2011 as a news anchor. She says her confirmation letter was withheld even after six months of the probation period, as until then she had not made any compromises that were expected of her. In November 2012, in a telephonic conversation, Raja complimented Akila’s looks and went on to ask what she would give in return for the confirmation of her job.

She says that what followed when she did not oblige him was continuous harassment in the news room, threats to transfer her and even putting her in early morning shifts (which meant that she had to leave home at around 3:30 am and the office would not provide a cab).

In spite of a police complaint, Raja who was arrested and out on bail joined work in March 2013, and on the very next day Akila was suspended.

Akila and how section of media shunned her

Akila’s charges against Raja are yet to be proven in a court of law. However, the way some in the media fraternity treated her was more heartbreaking, says Akila. “After March, I started looking for a job, but was rejected by several organisations. Some told me that it would be unwise to hire me as I had taken on an employee in a powerful media network”, she states.

Her search for a next job went on for months without yielding any results and, “at one point of time I was even wondering why I filed a complaint. How can the media, which talks about everyone else, be silent about what happens within. My family that was never in favour of me giving a complaint was dejected further.”

In December 2013, Akila was finally given a job by Polimer TV, a Tamil news channel.

Debating the role of the Vishaka committee

In this case, the Vishakha committee which enquired into the issue had rejected Akila’s complaint. The committee went through the telephonic conversation between Akila and Raja and noted that “ ‘You are looking young and beautiful in makeup’, which was told during the conversation, in our opinion will not attract the definition of sexual harassment. Merely making sexually coloured remarks will not tantamount to sexual harassment.”

The report also questioned why Akila said “Thank you” to the compliment and later made it part of her police complaint. “If your head of the department gives you a compliment what would you say other than thank you? It was only during the later part of the conversation that I realized his intention”, Akila adds. Raja's lawyers are now using this report as proof of Akila's 'false complaint'.

Lately there has been much discussion on the need to have committees under the Vishakha guidelines in every organisation, especially after the Tarun Tejpal molestation case. But with victims like Akila questioning the composition of the Vishaka committee, this makes way for a larger debate on role, extent and importance of such committees.

Kavitha Krishnan, AIPWA Secretary told The News Minute, that she could not think of any other process that would work, but the composition of the committee is crucial. “The outside member in the committee should be someone of repute who has prior experience working with cases of sexual harassment. From my experience I have noted that these committees tend to work better in companies where employees actively participate and monitor such discussions.” Kavita, however, rues the fact that media is largely silent on harassment cases within the industry. “Media should definitely discuss these issues more. This common sexism, the garden variety sexism that women employees are supposed to entertain bosses or other people should be discouraged. In many cases including the Tehelka case I have noticed there is a tendency to sexualize the job.”

Sudha Ramalingam, a senior lawyer based out of Chennai says she finds multiple investigating authorities a hindrance. "Akila's complaint that the committee was hasty may or may not be valid. But the problem is there is no way to appeal against such a report. If a victim discards the report and decides to approach police and court, the court need not take the report into account at all. then what is the use of multiple investigations? Today there are more laws and sections that we can count and this has muddled the system so much that many times it works against the victim," Sudha says.

I will fight the case

Akila says she is ready to take the fight forward, but Raja maintains that he is innocent. A source close to him says Akila's motives are questionable and this is a 'typical case' of a woman suddenly accusing sexual harassment in an otherwise normal relationship.

"I lost my job, was penniless and searching for a job for months. I have to take leave every week to make court appearances. But I am determined to fight the case," says Akhila.

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