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Maximum fine for Som Mittal, Rs 1,000
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru | February 22, 2008 11:06 IST
Last Updated: February 22, 2008 12:36 IST
The big news on Thursday was the Supreme Court paving the way for the prosecution of Som Mittal, current Nasscom president and former managing director of Hewlett Packard GlobalSoft Pvt Ltd, in the Pratibha Murthy rape-and-murder case.
Legal experts say that, upon prosecution, if Mittal is found guilty -- as alleged by the Karnataka police and the state's labour department -- then he would have to cough up a fine of Rs 1,000 and little else.
Sanjay Hegde, the Karnataka counsel in the Supreme Court, said that this is the maximum punishment Mittal could attract if found guilty.
A three-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan had on Thursday rejected Mittal's appeal challenging the complaint filed against him by the Karnataka police under the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishments Act alleging that he had failed to provide employment to Pratibha Murthy who was allegedly raped and murdered by her cab driver in Bangalore after being picked up for work late in the night. Prathibha was an employee of the outsourcing division of HP and Mittal was the managing director then.
Soon after the Pratibha case the Karnataka cops and the labour department filed a complaint before the magistrate in Bengaluru under Section 25 of the Karnataka Shops and Commercial Establishment Act, 1961 stating that Mittal as the employer had failed to provide adequate security to Pratibha.
Section 25 of the Act states that women and young persons cannot be employed during the night, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. However, after the IT boom in Karnataka the Act was amended in 2002 so as to enable women to work in the night as some IT jobs demanded that night shifts be done.
The amendment of 2002 to the Act states that the State government can by notification exempt any establishment of the information technology or information technology enabled services sector from the provision as stated under Section 25 relating to employment of women during the night hours. It also stated that the employer shall be fully responsible for the transportation and security of all such women employees.
Subsequently a penal clause under Section 31 of the Act was introduced which stated that in case of violation under Section 25, Rs 1,000 as fine would be imposed. The Karnataka Labour Department had also sought to further amend the Act by seeking imposition of three months' imprisonment if Section 25 was violated.
Another attempt was made by former Labour Minister Iqbal Ansari to ban women from night shifts, but both the imprisonment clause as well the recommendation by the minister fell out following protests alleging that this would amount to discrimination against women.
As of now only the provision to impose the fine stays.
Although the fine amount is meagre, legal experts say that a conviction is a conviction. If convicted, it becomes evident that he had failed to provide security and this would be a black mark on the company.