Mumbai: Key witness goes missing in sexual assault case
A 36-year-old woman spent decades climbing to the top rungs of the financial world, but her world came crashing down in a matter of months when her senior colleague began sexually harassing her. To put an end to it, she left her job and filed an FIR, but got out on bail. She alleges that he is now threatening her, and has made a witness in the case disappear.
Asha (name changed) had a dream job as a senior executive at a major financial firm in Mumbai. Everything was perfect, except for her senior colleague — Neeraj Tayal (33). He kept making sexual advances toward her, and every time she resisted, he only took it up a notch. The sexual harassment began way back in June 2013, and would continue for the next year, right until she quit her job in frustration.
Now, she is struggling to fight for justice, while he is a hot-shot entrepreneur in Delhi, where he co-founded the cab aggregator TaxiVaxi.com.
Tayal would frequently follow her to her home in the western suburbs and sexually assault her there. There are two eyewitnesses who confirmed this in their statements to the police, including Asha’s neighbour and her domestic help. “Once he came to my residence at midnight and started forcing himself on me. I resisted and somehow I managed to get out of house. My neighbour witnessed the entire situation,” she told the police when she filed an FIR against him.
But if Asha thought her complaint would bring her justice, she was in for another disappointment. The company where she worked launched an internal inquiry into the sexual harassment charges, but she is yet to hear from them about their findings. Based on her police complaint, Tayal was arrested in January 2015 under Sections 354, 354(b), 506, 509, 323 of the IPC. But Asha alleged that the police did a less than thorough job in their investigation, and Tayal spent just a night in jail before he managed to get out on bail and fled to Delhi. But even from there, he continued to make life difficult for Asha.
Threat from Delhi
In January this year, Asha received a threat letter, demanding that she withdraw her case or face the consequences. The letter had a Hauz Khas, Delhi, postmark. Instead of giving in, Asha began to work even harder to make her case stronger. It was during this process that she realised in April, that one of the crucial eyewitnesses, her domestic help, had disappeared after living in Bandra for over a decade. Her entire family is also missing.
Now, she has moved the Sessions Court, demanding that Tayal’s bail be repealed. Her lawyer Shailesh Kantharia said, “Witnesses in the case have received threats and disappeared. Hence, we have filed for cancellation of bail in the Sessions Court against the accused, Neeraj Tayal, who was working with a financial company in Mumbai at the time of filing the FIR. Tayal, who then exited the company, is now the founder of TaxiVaxi.com in Delhi.”
Wants fresh probe
Asha also complained that the police had left out several important statements and evidence while filing the chargesheet. In July, Asha wrote to the police commissioner about the missing witness, requesting that her case be investigated afresh.
However, the police have denied her allegations. “We have done everything according to the rule book. The charges levelled against the police are inappropriate,” said Ramchandra Jadhav, senior police inspector of Khar police station.
He also seemed unconcerned about the disappearance of the witness and said: “The chargesheet has been filed. When the case appears in court, according to the procedure, summons will be issued to the witnesses.” The next court hearing is scheduled for October 24.
The other side
mid-day attempted to contact Tayal, but he did not respond to calls or messages. However, his lawyer Shreya Shrivastava said, “The petition for cancellation of bail has been filed almost 21 months after my client got bail. The reasons cited for cancellation are false and misleading. My client has complied with all the conditions that were mentioned while granting bail to him.”
>> In 2007, there were shockwaves through the corporate world after a senior executive at KPMG complained of sexual harassment at work
>> Case documents went missing from National Women’s Commission
>> She has since become the victim of another form of harassment – cyber bullying
>> Alleges this is a blatant attempt to sabotage her case
December 2014: Top woman executive at Khar financial firm lodges FIR against her senior, alleging he stalked, molested her for over a year
Jan 2016: Victim gets threat letter
April 2016: She realises one witness has gone missing with entire family
July 2016: Victim writes to police commissioner seeking reinvestigation
No. of months for which the accused has been out on bail