Meghalaya governor V Shanmuganathan must face probe in sexual misconduct case, redeem prestige of office

As allegations go, this one is serious. Meghalaya governor V Shanmuganathan may have denied the charge of misconduct levelled against him by a woman job seeker, but the very fact that she has made it public calls for a probe. The issue involves not only his prestige but also that of the high office he holds. It should not go unaddressed.

V Shanmuganathan

V Shanmuganathan

For him, it is more aggravating that employees of the Shillong Raj Bhavan have raised the issue of his "activities" which seriously compromise the dignity of the governor’s residence and office. According to a report in The Indian Express, in their letter to the Prime Minister’s Office and Rashtrapati Bhawan, they have accused Shanmuganathan of converting the Raj Bhawan into a "young ladies' club". They have also charged him with causing them mental stress and humiliation.

The alleged incident involving the woman complainant took place in December. The governor, however, dismissed the allegation soon after the news of his "inappropriate advances" came out in a local daily recently. He suggested that it was a case of an unsuccessful candidate venting her anger. His secretary told the media that no FIR had been filed in the case.

However, the fact that no FIR has been registered should not mean the end of the matter. People rarely muster the courage to move the police in matters involving people in high offices. As experience suggests it is mostly a futile exercise, resulting more in the harassment of the victim than of the alleged perpetrator. The employees' complaint suggests that there could be some substance in the woman's charge. So, the case needs properly inquiry.

There have been a few controversies involving Raj Bhawans. The most high profile of them being that of Indian National Congress (INC) veteran ND Tiwari who has now joined the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). He had to quit as Andhra Pradesh governor in 2009 after the video of him in a compromising position with three women became public. To his credit, he apologised for his conduct before quitting. Although it was not before much kicking and screaming and allegation of being "framed" had passed. And, his case brought the Raj Bhawan into the negative light.

Shanmuganathan should come clear on the matter quickly and resign on moral grounds, if necessary, he does not want to meet the fate of Tiwari. As for the central government, it should also take note of the matter and initiate whatever action necessary. It does not matter whether he is linked to any influential organisation (Shanmuganathan is said to be linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). But surely, the latter won’t protect him if he is guilty of moral turpitude.

For many, the governors and Raj Bhawan are a relic of the past — a big, avoidable burden on the public exchequer. The latter are a lodge for discarded politicians or once useful babus whose respectable rehabilitation follows pure political considerations. Governors are sometimes utilised to destabilise unfriendly state governments. For an institution whose reputation is already under negative scrutiny, the allegation of sexual misconduct does no good.


Updated Date: Jan 26, 2017 15:23 PM

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