The Bengaluru police probing the sexual harassment allegations against Chief Operating Officer of ARG Outlier Asianet News, Abhinav Khare, has filed a B report alleging that the charge sheet could not be filed due to lack of evidence.
In October 2017, Abhinav Khare was accused of sexually harassing Sonam Mahajan who had joined as a strategy consultant at Namma Bengaluru Foundation. BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar is the Founder Trustee and Chairman of Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF) and former board member of ARG Outlier Asianet News. The NBF, Asianet and Rajeevâ€™s venture capital firm Jupiter Capital Private Limited work out of the same building in Bengaluru.
Though Sonam had joined the team as a strategy consultant to help Rajeev Chandrasekharâ€™s political office, she was told that she would be under the payrolls of NBF. Abhinav Khare was the person to whom she was reporting.
A few days later, she complained that Abhinav Khare was harassing her and wanted Rajeevâ€™s office to reassign her to a new team. But instead of a transfer, what followed was a long process of inquiry, rounds of talks and finally a gag order on the woman.
Meanwhile, in June 2018, an ad-hoc committee of three members gave its final report. The report found that most of the allegations made by Sonam were true and Khare should tender a written apology to her.
The police, however say that they interviewed 15 employees of Namma Bengaluru Foundation and Jupiter Capital India Pvt Ltd in connection with the case.
â€śNone of the firmâ€™s employees spoke in favour of the complainant. We interviewed 15 employees who worked with the woman and the accused but not one personâ€™s testimony had anything to back the complainantâ€™s claims. In fact many of them alleged she behaved inappropriately. Some said her performance was not satisfactory and the complaint was vendetta,â€ť the police said. At least one employee has changed her version, after initially supporting Sonam.
The police further claimed that when the FIR was registered, the complainant had informed them that she had screenshots of WhatsApp messages and also a few recorded calls, which she would produce as proof of the sexual harassment that she allegedly faced from Abhinav. However, the police alleged that the complainant did not furnish any of these documents and did not cooperate with the police during the investigation.
However, speaking to TNM, Sonam denied the police's claims.
"This is blatantly false. The police contacted me and told me that my husband should give a statement. I informed them that I was not in town and that my husband and I would come down to the station a week later. In between, the police kept sending me messages to appear for questioning. I called DCP Annamalai and he informed me that my husband's statement is not required and only my statement is needed. Besides, I had told the police that I did not have any screenshots. I don't know why they are making such claims. The entire investigation is one-sided and I am going to move the court against the B report," the complainant said.
The woman has also filed a complaint against the Basavanagudi Women's Police with DCP Annamalai, stating that the investigation was not conducted properly. "DCP Annamalai told me that the B report has already been filed and the next step is to challenge it in the court. That's the only thing I can do now, which I will," she added.
Abhinav Khare in a statement called the woman an extortionist. â€śIn the last 18 months she has changed her lie 4 times from â€śborderline harassmentâ€ť to â€śVerbal harassmentâ€ť to â€śsexual assaultâ€ť and now back to â€śverbal harassmentâ€ť. Despite 18 months long smear campaign and media trial by her, not a single witness or evidence had corroborated her lies. Iâ€™m relieved that Police after extensive investigation of 6 months and recording statements from dozens of witnesses have submitted a B-report. I was treated as criminal even without an iota of evidence that could be produced by Mrs. Mahajan. Iâ€™m still trying to recover from the pain, humiliation, character assassination that she had done with the help of some media platforms. Iâ€™d like to thank my present and past female colleagues for their support in my fight.â€ť
Sonam Mahajan's statement:
The police report is more appalling than shocking. The investigating officer, Sathyavathi has been extremely hostile to me from the beginning. She had refused to take down my FIR saying she didnâ€™t want any headaches as big people were involved. Itâ€™s only after my lawyer and I reached out to the DCP, she agreed to take down the FIR. She kept harassing me in the days to follow. A couple of days to my FIR, she called me and told me that if I didnâ€™t reach the police station in a few minutes, she would file a B-report stating that my case was false. When I offered her the call recordings of the BJP politician who had reached out to me for a settlement stating that Abhinav is really scared and wonâ€™t repeat his behaviour with anyone in future which is a clear admission of guilt and a big evidence in itself, she said it wasnâ€™t required. Every time, I reached out to her to check the status of investigation, she told me that the organisation isnâ€™t cooperating and the committee members who ruled in my favour didnâ€™t show up either.Itâ€™s shocking that she has rather stated in the report that I didnâ€™t cooperate.
Itâ€™s also noteworthy that it didnâ€™t occur to her even once that all the witnesses who testified in Khareâ€™s favour work under him and have lookalike scripted responses. She has even stated that the committee report that found Khare guilty didnâ€™t consider witness statements which is patently false. At least 50-60% of the internal inquiry report is witness statements and the findings were based on evidence.
She has also been making extremely personal and unpleasant statements about me to the media professionals who have been visiting her to enquire about the report. The same has been reported to the DCP South with evidence and a show-cause notice has been issued to her. I leave it to everyoneâ€™s wisdom to judge the merits of a report filed by such an officer.