Smriti Irani controversy: Goa CM says FabIndia cannot be blamed, faults staffers

Panaji: Under fire over the voyeurism charge, Fabindia today got the backing of Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar who said the company cannot be blamed for the mischief played by some employees at its store, where Union Minister Smriti Irani spotted a camera facing the trial room.

"Fabindia is supposed to be a reputed company. I personally feel that it must not be the company's fault but mischief played by its staff members. Some womanisers must have done that," Parsekar told reporters here.

In a related development, Fabindia's Candolim store manager Chaitrali Sawant was today granted anticipatory bail by a district court in Mapusa town near here in connection with the case.

Parsekar said, "Smritiji was VIP and because of that cognisance has been promptly taken. We will see that such things don't occur again. It is a lesson for everybody." He said Goa is safe for all women tourists and this is an isolated incident.

Asked if changing rooms of all garment shops would be inspected across Goa, Parsekar said it is up to the police to decide on that. "I have not issued any directions to check the changing rooms. If police do that then there might be allegations of extortion," he added.

The voyeurism case was filed against the outlet's staff after Irani, who visited the Fabindia store at Candolim on Friday, alleged that it had a CCTV camera focusing at the trial room.

Sawant, who had been untraceable after the incident, had moved the court for anticipatory bail through her lawyer on Saturday. The court, while granting the bail, asked Sawant to be present before the investigating officers for two days (today and tomorrow) as part of the probe in the case.

Judge Desmond D'Costa, in his order, said that all the sections applied in the case are bailable, expect section 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of IPC. He observed that IPC section 354 does not apply to Sawant as she was not present in the store when the incident happened.

Sawant's lawyer Raju Poulekar said her custodial interrogation was not required as she was not present at the spot when the incident happened.

However, public prosecutor Anuradha Talaulikar argued that it is a very serious offence against women and custodial interrogation is necessitated. Meanwhile, BJP MLA from Goa Michael Lobo, who had filed the complaint regarding voyeurism at the Fabindia store
in Candolim, today said that the company should issue a public apology over the incident.

"The Fabindia bosses should own the responsibility of the incident and issue public apology as the incident has happened in their outlet," he said.

"I fully agree that bosses cannot keep a check on each of the CCTV cameras, but it is evident that some of the employees have played the mischief. Fabindia cannot disown the responsibility of the entire incident," he said.

Fabindia has denied that it had placed hidden cameras in any of its stores. According to a statement issued by Fabindia earlier, the camera in question at Candolim store was part of the surveillance system and was installed in the shopping area. It had, however, apologised to the HRD Minister for the "inconvenience that has been inadvertently caused".

Four employees of the outlet -- Paresh Bhagat, Raju Payanche, Prashant Naik and Karim Lakhani -- were arrested and booked under IPC sections 354C (voyeurism), 509 (intrusion into privacy) and IT Act's section 66E (capturing, publishing image of private area of any person without his/her consent).

However, they were later granted bail by a local court which said that police had made out no grounds for custodial interrogation.

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