Police Gives Clean Chit To Asianet CEO Accused In Sexual Harassment Case, Says It's A False Case
In November 2017, Abhinav Khare, current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Asianet News was accused of sexually harassing Sonam Mahajan. Mahajan was just months old in the organisation, working as a strategy consultant in Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF). Mahajan was reporting to Khare, Chief of Staff then.
Now, the Bengaluru police which was probing the case has filed a B report (B report means cancellation report i.e., police has not found any evidence against the accused), thereby giving a clean chit to Khare. In response, Sonam Mahajan has accused police of carrying out a biased investigation.
What happened & Police version
Mahajan was under the payroll of NBF although she had joined Chandrasekhar’s political office. BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar is the Founder Trustee and Chairman of NBF. He is also the former board member of ARG Outlier Asianet News. Three organisations-NBF, Asianet and Chandrasekhar’s venture capital firm Jupiter Capital Private Limited operate out of the same building.
On November 16, 2017, she filed a case accusing Khare of ‘borderline mental and sexual harassment. On Oct 31, 2018, she filed a “Sexual Assault” case with Basavanagudi women’s police station under IPC 354 – a Non-bailable section.
In June 2018, Mahajan’s accusations against Khare were termed to be true by an ad-hoc committee. Khare was asked to render an unconditional apology. However, on 24 April this year, the police investigation revealed that the accusations were false. The police spoke to 15 employees of NBF none of which corroborated Mahajan’s claim and they spoke in favour of Khare. “In fact, many of them alleged she behaved inappropriately. Some said her performance was not satisfactory and the complaint was vendetta,” said the police while speaking to The News Minute. As per reports, at least one employee has changed their version after previously supporting Mahajan’s claim.
Additionally, the FIR also says that Mahajan did not cooperate with the police personnel even after repeated requests while the investigations were going on. As complainant Mahajan has accused Khare of sending obscene messages, police repeatedly asked for the mobile messages, which police claim Sonam failed to provide. The B report filed by the police also says that the witnesses’ claimed that the complainant herself behaved indecently with the accused.
Khare has accused Mahajan to be an ‘extortionist’.
‘Shoddy investigation’: Sonam Mahajan
Sonam Mahajan while speaking to The Logical Indian, said, “The whole investigation was conducted very shoddily. The investigation officer who was overlooking the case seemed to have a clear bias against me. As far as my cooperation with the authorities is concerned, I offered my full cooperation. Initially, the inspector refused to register to FIR at the first place saying that they did not want any headache considering big people were involved. In fact, police caused much trauma since I would be made to wait in the police station from morning to evening on multiple occasions.” She further added that with the Basavanagudi police she has registered the case of ‘sexual harassment at workplace’ not that of sexual assault.
She tweeted her version on the whole case on Twitter too:
At the risk of sounding repetitive and sulky, I still feel that I must express as to what it has taken away from me and how I am coping-up and struggling with this harassment on a daily basis. I couldn’t care any less about what anyone is going to think about me at this moment. pic.twitter.com/LfQjgm02ts
— Sonam Mahajan (@AsYouNotWish) April 30, 2019
So Asianet’s @MyNation does a hit-job on me giving a clean-chit to its chief, Abhinav Khare who sexually harassed me, based on a shoddy investigation by a cop who has been issued a show cause notice for exhibiting personal vengeance against me. They didn’t even take my version.
— Sonam Mahajan (@AsYouNotWish) May 9, 2019
She further added that the Internal Complaints Committee, which had members chosen by the company itself and she herself had no say in selection, had held Khare guilty. “I was also contacted by a BJP leader who asked for a ‘settlement’ to be made. If Khare is innocent, how the question of ‘settlement’ even come up.”
Speaking about the statements of the 15 employees, Mahajan said that all the statements are suspiciously identical. She added further that since Khare has now been promoted, chances were higher that the employees might be under pressure to record the statement.
“The FIR is not yet presented before the court. We are waiting to be done. Once it is done, we will present our side. I would also like to tell that the investigation officer herself has a show-cause order against her, thereby making our case stronger,” Mahajan said on the future course of action.