8 years after sexual harassment at work, MNC honcho now being cyber-bullied
Fighting a high-profile sexual harassment case since 2007, 45-year-old Chartered Accountant has alleged her email was hacked and a fake Facebook account created to distract her from the legal battle
In 2007, this 46-year-old sent shockwaves through the corporate world after she complained of sexual harassment at financial major KPMG.
Still fighting for justice eight years later, this Chartered Accountant has now become the target of cyber harassment, with someone hacking into her email account and creating a fake Facebook account in her name. This was not a random act but cyber bullying, she alleged, an attempt to distract her from the ongoing sexual harassment case she has been fighting since 2007.
“For the last eight years, I have been fighting to restore my dignity in society, but instead, I have been subjected to different forms of harassment, which ruined my professional and personal life,” she said, holding back tears.
The crime came to light on November 16, when Alka Dixit (name changed to protect her identity) got an email about a Facebook account she had never created. Worryingly, this Facebook account was linked to the email ID she used for all her legal correspondence for the court case.
“I operate two Gmail accounts – one is used to keep in touch with family and friends and is linked to my real Facebook profile since 2007. The other email ID is for my ongoing sexual harassment case and contains a series of petitions and replies pertaining to it. It was this account that was hacked to create a new, fake Facebook account,” Dixit told mid-day.
She added, “On November 16, I received a security alert on this email, informing that a new mobile number had been added to the fake Facebook profile. I felt like the sky had fallen on me; my worst fear had come true, my important Gmail account had been hacked.”
Dixit said she was surprised that she had not received a notification from Facebook before that, as it is customary for the social media site to send a verification email while creating a new account. She decided to investigate deeper.
She copied the phone number from the email and entered it into the Truecaller app, which identifies callers. According to the app, the caller was listed as one Mohit Kumar Marothi. A search on another social media platform, LinkedIn, showed there was a person with the same name who was a part-time hacker based in Delhi.
She tried changing the password for the account, but the verification code was sent to Mohit’s number. So Dixit dialled the number. “The person who answered the call said he was Marothi, the owner of a readymade garments shop in Bikaner.
He said he didn’t know any Mohit based in Delhi. But he had received the code from Facebook on his number, and he gave it to me,” Dixit told this reporter. But once again, she failed to access the account and was informed that the account had been ‘locked due to security reasons’.
Dixit was beweildered; she was still receiving notifications from the account, which meant it had to be active. Armed with this information Dixit visited the Cyber Crime Cell in Bandra-Kurla Complex on November 21 and registered an FIR under Section 66 (ii) of the Information Technology Act (under which hackers can be punished with a fine and imprisonment for upto three years).
Senior Police Inspector Sudhir Mahadik, from the cell, confirmed, “We registered the case last week. Prima facie, we suspect that this is indeed a deliberate attempt to harass the complainant. We will also be checking the previous cases she had filed with us.”
“I did not take the matter to court in anticipation of any hefty compensation or for publicity. I am representing my own case in court, as I cannot afford the huge legal charges. I am pretty sure that this is being done to harass and divert me from the ongoing court case. Those in power feel it is easy to curb the voice of a single mother who has dared to raise her voice against harassment,” said Dixit.
“Whenever a woman raises her voice against any form of sexual harassment, why does her character come under the lens and not that of the accused? This shows the typical stereotype reaction of the society that we are living in,” she pointed out, adding that abroad, complaints about harassment at workplace are dealt with in a sensitive, confidential and expeditious manner. “In our country, victims fear loss of job or further harassment if they speak openly.”
Not the first time
Dixit had been targetted in other cases of cyber bullying in 2012 and 2014. “I have suffered different forms of cyber abuse since I filed my case in 2007. In 2012, I had to file an FIR and obtain a magistrate’s order to have defamatory blogs about me pulled down,” she recalled.
Last year as well, someone posted her other Gmail address on a matrimonial website, after which she began to receive numerous proposals. The Cyber Crime Cell cracked the case and tracked the accused to Pune. “The accused was an IT professional. He and his family apologised to me, so I decided not to pursue the case further,” said Dixit.
The inquiry by the National Commission for Women (NCW) was quashed by the Bombay High Court in 2014 on the grounds that the criminal case against the accused was pending. In February, the NCW informed me that all files were lost and they had set up a fact finding committee. In March, one of the accused filed a criminal writ seeking to quash the case. The hearing for this writ will take place at the HC next week.
‘My name is Mohit’
When mid-day dialled the phone number in the email received by Dixit, the person who answered the call introduced himself as Mohit. He said he was working in Delhi and was from Bikaner. However, he did not answer any further questions and disconnected the line saying, “Main aap ko das minute mein phone karta hu” (I will call you in ten minutes).