Chargesheet details of the sexual harassment case against TVF CEO Arunabh Kumar
Bengaluru, May22:Sensational details have emerged from the charge sheet filed by the MIDC police in the sexual harassment case against The Viral Fever founder and CEO Arunabh Kumar, who has been accused of molestation by a video production professional while shooting a promotional feature last year.
While the charge sheet doesn’t include the statement of the complainant’s friend in Bengaluru, whom she had told about the incident over WhatsApp, the chat transcript the police are relying on, have been accessed by Mumbai Mirror.
Arunabh was arrested last month, booked under the Indian Penal Code Sections 354 and 509 for outraging a woman’s modesty and molestation, and released on bail. A separate complaint of molestation was filed against him at Versova Police Station but this charge sheet makes no mention of that.
According to the complainant’s statement in the 273-page charge sheet, her company was roped in to shoot a promotional feature with Arunabh at his office in April-May last year, which was to be followed by an interview shoot in June. The complainant said during her first meeting with Arunabh, he handed her his business card and asked her not to share his mobil e phone number. He also asked her to send over the details of the projects undertaken by her company.
The chargesheet quoted the complainant as saying that on May 27, when she and her colleagues were preparing for the shoot around 11 am and she was explaining a few details to Arunabh, he asked her to enter his cabin. “When I asked whether she had seen our work, he said hadn’t. Then he said, ‘Let’s watch it together. Why don’t you come to my house, we will watch it together’. I felt uncomfortable as this man, who I only just met for work, was asking me to come over to his house,” the woman said in her statement.
The woman further said in her statement that as she entered the cabin, Arunabh rested his hand on her hand, prompting her to leave. She said he followed her, touched a tattoo on her shoulder and said it looked “sexy”.
This, the woman said, took place in front of her colleague. The complainant also said during the shoot, when Arunabh was required to wear different shirts, he changed inside his see-through glass cabin instead of going to the restroom.
The charge sheet quoted the woman as saying that she and her company were “under a lot of pressure” to complete the shoot, hence walking out “wasn’t an option”. However, she confided in her business partner and said they needed to wrap up the shooting fast. She also told her partner that he should be with her when Arunabh was around, the charge sheet said.
The woman alleged Arunabh kept staring at her “from head to toe”, and on one occasion, told her, ‘You look so hot, ya’. It was at this stage that she messaged a friend in Bengaluru regarding her interaction with Arunabh, she said in her statement.
The woman said during the shoot, Arunabh would repeatedly approach the monitor to review the shot and in the process “kept brushing his hand over my waist”. “I froze out of disgust and helplessness,” she said in her statement, adding Arunabh’s clout and the “bad name the complaint would bring to her work and reputation” were the biggest reasons for her not to go to the police. The statements of witnesses in favour of the complainant in the charge sheet are those of her mother, her business partner, and two other colleagues (a cinematographer and an assistant director).
In his statement, the cinematographer corroborated the complainant’s charge that Arunabh called her inside his cabin. “After she came out of the cabin, her mood was not OK,” he was quoted as saying.
“She was silent and uncomfortable. When I asked what happened, she told me, ‘This guy is creepy and constantly hitting on me’,” he said in his statement.
Regarding the allegation that Arunabh touched the complainant’s waist, he said the two were standing behind him and he didn’t know what had happened.
The assistant director in the complainant’s firm also said in his statement that the woman had described Arunabh as “creepy”, but he hadn’t seen him touching her. “She extremely upset that day,” he said in his statement.
The complainant’s business partner has been quoted in the charge sheet as saying that he saw Arunabh touching the tattoo on her shoulder and describing it as “sexy”. He also said he was witness to Arunabh asking the woman to step inside his cabin. “She narrated the incident to me and looked very scared. I assured her I won’t leave her side when Arunabh was around. I’m very angry at Arunabh’s behaviour,” the complainant’s business partner said in his statement.
Legal experts were of the opinion that the WhatsApp messages that the complainant shared with her friend should have been attached to the chargesheet, as per Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, which is “mandatory to prove the authenticity of electronic records”.
Meanwhile, three of Arunabh’s colleagues have backed him all the way, with Jikoo Abraham, director at The Viral Fever saying the woman’s complaint was “false”. “The complainant in fact kept entering Arunabh’s cabin to explain how the shoot had to be done.
The behaviour of the woman was such that I didn’t feel she was being harassed.
Regarding Arunabh changing his shirt in front of her, he had to rush for a meeting and because he would be involved in shootings fairly regularly, he kept clothes in his cabin and changes there. That is very normal on his part,” Abraham said in his statement.
He further said the last day of the shooting was in a bar in Delhi, when Arunabh took a selfie with the complainant.
“We at TVF share a very good rapport with our employees, many of whom are women. No employee has complained against Arunabh and this complaint is false and filed at someone’s behest,” Abraham said in his statement.
The charge sheet also quoted Aditi Singh, communications manager at TVF, who also said it was the complainant who was “constantly stepping in and out of Arunabh’s cabin”. “The shoot was proceeding smoothly.
I didn’t notice or hear about Arunabh touching or misbehaving with the complainant. In fact, he was not keen on doing the shoot and had to be persuaded. I was involved in the shoot and know what happened,” Singh said in her statement.
The event co-ordinator, Ishaan Verma from the TVF, justified Arunabh’s alleged comments regarding the complainant’s tattoo in his statement, saying, “The woman was wearing her company’s short sleeve t-shirt and one could see the tattoo. It was like a 3D tattoo and very attractive, it would get anyone’s attention,” he said. Verma further said in his statement that the complainant “didn’t look nervous”. “I don’t know why has she filed the complaint as there is no truth in it,” he said.
Arunabh said in his statement to the police that there was no question of misbehaviour and that the shooting had gone off smoothly and the “mood was light”. “From her behaviour, it didn’t appear that she was upset. There are CCTV cameras in the office. I think this is being done to spoil my company’s name,” he said in the statement.
Regarding changing shirts in front of her, he said, “She gave me three clothes – two t-shirts and a kurta and I was asked to wear each of them for the three shoots. As soon as the shoot was over, I changed my clothes at the spot and she was not alone as there were other crew members present. I have never stripped in front of her nor did I pose any wrong gestures. I changed the clothes because I was getting late, I have no wrong intention. I neither messaged her not communicated with her through any electronic medium.”
The case is scheduled to be heard next month, during which the prosecution is likely to file draft charges, paving the way for the trial to begin. Arunabh, or his lawyer, did not respond to calls and messages.