Law Intern death: Attempt made to prevent victim from filing Sexual Harassment complaint

Law Intern death: Attempt made to prevent victim from filing Sexual Harassment complaint

The circumstances surrounding the recent death of a law intern in Bangalore who had filed a sexual harassment complaint against two city lawyers appear to be getting murkier.

The News Minute reports that a Bangalore-based lawyer – an acquaintance of the two lawyers accused of sexually harassing the intern – had made repeated phone calls to the victim, persuading her not to approach the police.

A recording of the phone call reveals that the victim was not willing to withdraw the sexual harassment complaint against Chandra Naik and Chetan Desai, lawyers who work at the Infantry Road law firm Jayant Pattanshetti Associates.

The phone call was made a day before the victim approached the Commercial Street Police Station to lodge an FIR on November 20, and five days before she was found dead in her PG accommodation at Malleswaram.

As per the report, a lawyer Kirti had called the victim on the day she was returning to Bangalore. News Minute has posted a 2-minute clip of the 23-minute long conversation that was recorded. Kirti can be heard saying on the audio clip,

“Today, we’ll just meet up when you come back. By 4:30-5 if you reach Bangalore, you just give me a ring.”

The caller says that he wants to “just have a discussion” with the victim and offers to bring one ‘Gowda’ to discuss the issue with her.

At this point, the victim reveals that the Commercial Street DCP wanted to speak with her. To this, Kirti replies,

“There is no point in discussing after going to the station at all…The reason I am calling you repeatedly is that somehow compromise this matter…”

He goes on to state,

“If this issue becomes serious, if you give the complaint, criminal action will be taken against Naik and Chetan. The issue will be known by all the advocates…Once the FIR is registered, they will arrest Naik and Chetan…”

Further, he warns the victim that once the issue is known to local advocates, they will not let her practice in Bangalore. The victim replies,

“If at all they do all this, I’ll see to it that I practice in Bangalore. How will they stop me? I’ll see to it.”

The defiant victim goes on to say,

“When I am saying no, how can he say that consent was there? Who is he to tell my consent to everyone? Let them arrest whomever they want. And I have taken this matter very seriously.”

ToI reports that the victim was under immense pressure to keep the incidents of sexual harassment under wraps. She is quoted as saying in the rest of the recorded phone conversation,

“My culprits should go behind bars and should never work in black coats again. This is justice for me.”

The report also states the victim had forwarded her complaint to the Bar Council of India, Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad, Union Minister for Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi, the National Commission for Women, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Advocate General for Karnataka Udaya Holla.

Local police are yet to establish whether the death is a murder or suicide. The post-mortem report will reach the police in a couple of days.

The intern, who hailed from Andaman & Nicobar Islands, had come to Bengaluru in 2017 and was interning with Jayanth Pattenshetti Associates.

At the firm, she was assigned to work with an advocate named Chandra Naik, who introduced her to another advocate, Chetan Desai, a pleader at the Karnataka High Court. The victim later filed an FIR against the two lawyers for allegedly sexually harassing her.

The FIR reportedly states that both Naik and Desai “used to take her to pubs and bars and force her to consume a alcohol. They would then touch her inappropriately and sexually harass her.”

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