Arun, Kalie Poorie were 'complicit' in sexual harassment complaint, claims Ex-India Today editor Rukmini Sen; groups calls her 'malicious'

The India Today Group has responded to a sexual harassment allegation made by a former employee on her Facebook. Rukmini Sen, a former employee of the India Today Group had accused Aroon Purie and Kalie Purie of being "complicit" in "playing with the well-being of their women professionals" and for "delaying the process of justice" over a sexual harassment involving group news director Supriya Prasad.

The media house, however, has rejected the charges laid by Sen, and has threatened to take legal actions against the journalist. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the group said, "The India Today Group did everything possible to pursue and address the issue. In putting out a one-sided version on social media and misrepresenting facts, we think Sen is being unfairly malicious towards the Group. Towards this, we are considering appropriate legal action."

In the statement, the group also accused Sen of not responding to their mail or attending any of the sexual harassment committee meetings despite being informed about it on multiple occasions.

Here's the full-text of the statement from the India Today Group:

The India Today Group takes tremendous pride in the accomplishments of its women employees. Women comprise 30% of our workforce. Forty percent of our editorial staff is female and 20% of our managers. Seventy percent of our women received the highest performance rating possible in 2018 and 21% got promoted. From an open office environment, to work-life balance, to child care facilities, our female staff is nurtured to succeed in their careers.

As such, any form of gender prejudice is unacceptable in our organization and there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment. Our Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Policy, written in accordance with the laws of the land, covers all employees: female and male.

The process for making a complaint and details of the Internal Complaints Committee are available on our intranet and, externally, on http://specials.indiatoday.com/aajtaknew/download/Corporate_policy-2017.pdf. Senior leaders have personally conducted awareness workshops on what actions are considered inappropriate.

Our Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Policy has a 100% compliance from an internal distribution, reporting, and complaint handling perspective. Every complaint is addressed and closed in writing with due information to both parties. Disciplinary, conciliatory and supportive measures are provided even when a colleague is reluctant to file a written complaint.

To protect the dignity and interests of the Complainant, Respondent, and others who depose before the Internal Complaints Committee, the India Today Group, in accordance with law, maintains confidentiality of sexual harassment proceedings.

However, we have noted the complaint of Ms. Rukmini Sen, which she has voluntarily shared in the public domain. We wish to place certain facts on record:

• Ms. Rukmini Sen was employed with TV Today Network from December 27, 2000 to March 24, 2004 and again from June 27, 2007 to November 6, 2012. Her last assignment was Editor Entertainment in our Mumbai office.

• She resigned from services on November 3, 2012, citing that she “is not fit for the job any more” and would like to do “more serious and meaningful stuff”. Her resignation was accepted the same day.

• After her resignation, she had an exit conversation on the afternoon of November 5, 2012, in an open conference room in the office, with her Head of Department, Mr Supriya Prasad, who was travelling to Mumbai for the ITA Awards.

• After the exit conversation with Mr. Prasad, Ms. Sen joined the internal Mumbai team celebration of the ITA awards within the office.

• On November 5th night, Ms. Rukmini Sen sent an email to Mr. Aroon Purie complaining that the exit conversation with Mr. Supriya Prasad was “offensive and humiliating”. A reminder was sent by her on November 6th.

• Mr. Aroon Purie responded on November 7, 2012, saying that he would ask the HR Department to look in to her complaint.

• A complete investigation was jointly carried out by the TV Today Network’s Legal and HR team. Mr. Supriya Prasad was asked to submit a statement of explanation. Formal statements of all present in the Mumbai Office were recorded.

• The matter was, subsequently, referred to the Internal Complaints Committee of TV Today Network. All of Ms. Sen’s requests regarding Committee constitution, including changing a member, were accepted and Ms. Sen was duly informed. The Committee had 5 members, including an external member. It had 3 female members. The process carried out for Ms. Sen, was in accordance with The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, 2013.

• The Committee was convened in Mumbai 3 times between November 2013 and January 2014, with sufficient notice to Ms. Sen.

• The Committee examined Ms. Sen’s complaint and Mr. Prasad’s explanation. Evidence from the internal investigation (i.e. statements from others) was also reviewed.

• Eight notices to appear before the Internal Complaints Committee were sent to Ms. Sen.

• Mr. Supriya Prasad appeared before the Committee. However, Ms. Sen chose to be absent on all occasions.

• Ultimately, the Committee’s final order, passed on January 14, 2014, was, “after carefully perusing the material on record i.e. the complaint of the Complainant, and the statement of Mr. Supriya Prasad, it is opined that the Complainant has failed to substantiate her allegations, and no act of sexual harassment has been made out from the records. In view of the aforesaid finding, the complaint is hereby dismissed.”

• After each Committee meeting, a written record was sent to both Ms. Sen and Mr. Prasad. The final order was also sent to both individuals.

• Ms. Sen’s complaint was closed.

In light of the above facts, we strongly believe that the India Today Group did everything possible to pursue and address the issue. In putting out a one-sided version on social media and misrepresenting facts, we think Ms. Sen is being unfairly malicious towards the Group. Towards this, we are considering appropriate legal action.

Some other unfortunate incidents have also been socially tagged to the India Today Group. While, the Group empathizes and is concerned about any survivor who has suffered the trauma of sexual harassment in any form or degree, the Group would like to clarify that none of these incidents were reported during the tenures of the Complainants or Respondents. Unfortunately, without incidents being brought to Management’s attention, it is not possible to take due action.

While sexual harassment is a grave offence and is repugnant to the moral values of the India Today Group, similarly, a malafide complaint or providing false information regarding a complaint is also treated as a serious breach since it may cause irreparable damage to image and self-worth. As an employer, it is equally our responsibility to protect the professional and personal reputation of each member of our organization. It is clarified that this view is not intended to discourage any employee from coming forward with their grievance.

With women comprising a substantial portion of the India Today Group, its high performers and decision makers, we are happy that our affirmative stance promotes diversity and the competence of our female talent. We remain committed to providing security and support to all our female colleagues. We strive to continuously undertake initiatives to remain an employer of choice for all, and women in particular.

Sen's is one of the many cases of sexual harassment charges against leading media houses which have surfaced since Tanushree Dutta's allegations against co-actor Nana Patekar. Women journalists have been taking to Twitter and Facebook to post allegations against their male colleagues. KR Sreenivas, Gautam Adhikari, Meghnad Bose, Siddharth Bhatia, Ishrath Jahan are some of the names that have surfaced recently.

In a Facebook post, Sen accused Prasad of subjecting her to "verbal sexism of worst order that is part of rape culture".

"Sexist jokes, sexist insults , sexist outbursts, sexist sidelining at professional space are unacceptable and serious harassment. It has harmed my well being and harms the well being of thousands like me," she says while accusing the group of forming a half-baked sexual harassment committee to deal with her complaint, and that too after a year.

"For one and a half years India Today group and I exchanged numerous mails about formation of a proper sexual harassment committee so that I could present my case against Mr Supriya Prasad. Aroon Purie/ Kalie Purie/ India Today group didn't take any action in my sexual harassment case for a year. They delayed the process of justice. India Today Group/Aroon Purie/ Kalie Purie haven't done anything since then ie for last six years. It took India Today Group one whole year to form a sexual harassment committee of sorts. However, this new SHC didn't have the mandatory external member in it (who was supposed to be either well known in the field of law or women's movement) (sic)."

Sen said that she had refused to present her case in front of the above "half-baked" sexual harassment committee, but the group later sent her a mail that "they had decided that Supriya Prasad (male Boss) was innocent because among some other vague reasons apparently I knew him from before...whatever that meant (sic)".

In her post, Sen, also, alleged that Prasad had once he tried to "kiss" an India Today professional and that he was asked to "resign at that time".

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Updated Date: Oct 10, 2018 11:49:06 IST