Bengaluru: The Karnataka State Bar Council has suspended the licence of a special public prosecutor (SPP) accused of sexual harassment by a law intern.
The suo motu action Thursday (21 October) came against advocate K.S.N. Rajesh, who works as the SPP for the Lokayukta in Mangaluru, after two law students filed separate complaints against him for sexual harassment and criminal intimidation respectively on 18 October. The complaints were filed with the Women’s Police station in the Mangaluru city limits.
Two police personnel from another police station have also been suspended for dereliction of duty in connection with the case.
Of the two women complainants, a second-year law student who joined Rajesh’s office as an intern in August has accused him of attempt to rape, molestation, criminal intimidation, sexual harassment, vouyerism among other charges in her complaint. Another complaint has been filed against the SPP by a third-year law student for abduction, criminal intimidation and threat.
The second-year student, in her complaint, has alleged that the assault took place on 25 September. The case was highlighted Saturday when senior advocate Indira Jaising tweeted about it deeming such instances an “epidemic”.
Intern in Bangalore sexually harassed by public prosecutor lodges an FIR. He seems to be absconding and not arrested . Karnataka Bar Council takes suo moto notice snd suspends him. How many wonen interns suffer the same fate in lawyers offices ? It’s an epidemic.
— Indira Jaising (@IJaising) October 23, 2021
While the intern has accused Rajesh of sexually abusing her, her friend, the second complainant, has alleged that the SPP, along with members of a women’s rights organisation, abducted her, threatened her and forced her to sign an apology letter taking responsibility for making an audio clip that purportedly shows a conversation between the victim and the accused about the alleged assault.
Pavithra Acharya, chief of the women’s rights organisation called Ashok Nagar Jagruta Mahila Vedike, has been arrested in connection with the second complaint.
“After having perused the available materials and after discussing the matter at length, KSBC is of the unanimous opinion that there are prima facie materials to show the commission of acts of sexual abuse, threats etc by KSN Rajesh against the law intern and also indulging in criminal offence of abduction, threat etc against another female law assistant,” read the proceedings of the Karnataka State Bar Council’s meeting on 21 October. A copy of the minutes was accessed by ThePrint.
Lawyer yet to be arrested, cops suspended
While the bar council has suspended Rajesh’s registration until further orders and in effect stopped him from practicing law, he is yet to be arrested by the Mangaluru Police.
“Two law students have filed complaints against an advocate on 18 October alleging sexual harassment and intimidation. This is a serious issue and an ACP has been appointed as investigation officer,” said N. Shashi Kumar, Commissioner of Police, Mangaluru, on October 19.
Speaking to the media, he added that the accused advocate had earlier filed a complaint against the victim and her friend, accusing them of using the audio clip to defame and extort him.
Sub-inspector Sreekala and head constable Pramodh of the Urwa police station, where the SPP lodged his extortion complaint, have been suspended for dereliction of duty in connection with the case. The station’s inspector, Bharati, has been issued a show cause notice for alleged mishandling of the case.
ThePrint has heard the audio clip, which purportedly is a conversation between the accused and victim, where the advocate is heard admitting to his actions and apologising to the victim.
Soon after the victim filed a complaint against him, Rajesh released a video to the media, of which ThePrint has a copy, claiming that he was a victim of a conspiracy.
“This is a conspiracy. The woman alleges that the incident took place on 25 September but I had already filed a complaint on 27 September that the complainant and their friend are using an audio clipping and intimidating me for money,” Rajesh said in the self-made video, adding that the complainant was playing the “victim card as a woman”.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)