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Dr Rina Mukherji wins case of sexual harassment against ‘The Statesman’ after 10 years #Vaw #Justice

The Cost of Justice

February 13, 2013 News,
Rina Mukherji-1In 2002, Dr Rina Mukherji, then a senior reporter working for The Statesman complained of against Ishan Joshi, the news coordinator for the paper. On October 12, 2002, she was fired from her job.

Dr. Mukherji, then approached Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) , the West Bengal Commission for Women and the Labour Commissioner. The refused conciliation proceedings and the labour suit moved to the Industrial Tribunal against the management of The Statesman . Ten years later, on February 6, 2013, the Court ruled in her favour. Rina Mukherji recounts her struggle for justice in this first person account

A full decade. That is the amount of time I have taken to win justice. More than three years of the period was lost due to vacant courts bereft of judges or stalling of proceedings on various pretexts by lawyers from the opposing side.

I was lucky to have been supported by many in the profession, as also outside it. Professor Jashodhara Bagchi, the then Chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women, went through a harrowing time trying to settle the dispute with The Statesman. Her experience, though, exposed the flaws in the system and led us to realize that the Commission lacked “teeth.” We also realized that an employer could easily upstage a complainant by dragging a dispute to court, and with the judicial system we have, a matter would drag on for years. In the meanwhile, a complainant loses precious years of professional life, and is blacklisted by employers.

Even if you land up a full-time job with an employer who is extremely supportive of your plight, it is difficult to work when you have to keep shunting between courts for months (and years) together. In my case, I had a labour suit to attend in Kolkata, and two libel suits-one civil and the other criminal with the latter in Delhi, to attend to. I was left with no option but to freelance, notwithstanding the regular drain on my resources.

One of the worst problems when you have a complaint of sexual at the workplace-is that no lawyer is willing to take up the case. They are apprehensive of losing the case, since they lack experience in such matters. (This again, is because of the deafening silence on such issues in a patriarchal society, which manifests itself in women keeping away from reporting on them). In my case, it was a media house, and hence even scarier! If not for Ms. Sutapa Chakrabarty of the Human Rights Law Network, (), an NGO providing legal aid to those who suffer a breach of their human rights, I might have had to plead my case myself.

There is another point I wish to make about those who swear by the names of celebrated legal luminaries. The lawyers at HRLN who fought my case were young and bright; and most of all, committed. Shamit Sanyal, Debashis Banerjee and his wife, Rajashri Banerjee, and Ambalika Roy brought a degree of commitment that is undeniable.

In fact, Debashis Banerjee worked hard to put forth the winning arguments that ultimately decided the case in my favour and got me an award from the Industrial tribunal granting my reinstatement and full back wages from the time of my termination by the management of The Statesman. And this was –to quote him- the “first case he had taken up as an advocate.”

The police, even if they be sympathetic and helpful, are utterly confused about how to deal with a white-collar offender. Eve-teasing or molestation by roadside miscreants is easy for them to deal with. But an educated man who is highly-placed in an organization can refuse to co-operate with the police investigation and easily get away with it due to loopholes in the legal system.

The Vishakha Guidelines were formulated with the best of intentions. But sexual harassment complaints committees in organizations are, more often than not, a total farce since the Guidelines presuppose organizations to be fair in bringing offenders to justice when a complaint is made to them. In my case, there was no such committee at The Statesman during my tenure. The pressure put in by Network of Women in Media in India ( NWMI), had my ex-employers hurriedly set up their committee.

My complaint, however, was never investigated into. Even as they refused to take cognizance of my complaint, The Statesman actually promoted the offender to a higher position.

One only hopes women will have a better deal once the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill becomes an Act in the near future.

The industrial tribunal has awarded me reinstatement and full back wages from the time I was terminated in October 2002 on the ground that it was illegal. However, the libel suits-filed against me by The Statesman and Ishan Joshi for having tarnished their reputation are yet to be decided. I still have a long way to go for a full victory.

Rina Mukherji is a senior journalist currently based in . She has worked for over two decades in the print and online media specializing in issues related to sustainable development, the environment and human rights . She is the recipient of the 2011-2012 Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity ( Eastern Region) and several international fellowships for reporting on science, the environment and public health

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Comments (20)

  1. jacqueline colaco is hopeful of change in future….

  2. […] Dr Rina Mukherji wins case of sexual harassment against ‘The Statesman’ after 10 years #… ( […]

  3. […] Dr Rina Mukherji wins case of sexual harassment against ‘The Statesman’ after 10 years #… ( […]

  4. […] Dr Rina Mukherji wins case of sexual harassment against ‘The Statesman’ after 10 years #… ( […]

  5. […] Dr Rina Mukherji wins case of sexual harassment against ‘The Statesman’ after 10 years #… ( […]

  6. […] Dr Rina Mukherji wins case of sexual harassment against ‘The Statesman’ after 10 years #… ( […]

  7. Ashish

    I think that this is the case now being shown in Crime Patrol on Sony TV, on the 26th and 27th of April 2013.

  8. Shiva Shankar

    It really speaks a lot about our social justice and crimanl justice system in place to date. One is left to wonder the fate of many persons who might not have the will, resolve, support, education to fight against such incidents, especially when the outcome can take such a long time, almost a decade in this case. If an acclaimed journalist is made to face such an horrible situation, how will the ordinary people be able to win?
    I really salute Dr Rina for standing up and fighting for her moral rights.

  9. dazzling

    Great display of courage to fight for so long…I watched in crime patrol…and wish you success in the other two libel suits…filed by Ishan Joshi and Stateman. They cannot go away easily and I think now you should file a case against statesman management and Ishan Joshi and ask for compensation due to mental trauma which you and your family faced.

  10. Sachin

    First of all thanks to Crime Patrol for showing Dr. Rina’s case… so impressive & with each and every details .

    Dr. Rina we salute you , your family & other members who supported you for the truth and justice.
    You are very confident , courageous women & real role model.

  11. Sita

    We are proud of you Dr. Mukherji for your struggle, committement, inspiration for your dignity. You have set an example for women force who don’t fight for justice & put up with harassment. Your patience & perseverance is is an encouragement for today’s woman. Salute you for showing us the path to fight against injustice, discrimination & also for having an attitude of “NEVER GIVE UP’. We are thankful to Crime Patrol for getting us introduce to role model like Dr. Mukherji.

  12. S.Chatterjee

    At the onset we are thankful to crime patrol to show us an exact replica of a case which makes us salute Dr Rina Mukherjee for her strength, her perseverence, to fight to the end.
    We are shocked and ashamed at the behaviour of businouss houses.
    We also suggest that Dr Mukherjee should now file a litigation for getting compensation for the physical and mental trauma that has been caused to her, and the loss of financial returns from her profession during this battle of 10 years.

  13. Nupur

    So extremely was I moved by Sony’s depiction of (I suppose) this case that I set out to search for it. I hope that Dr. Mukerji wins her case of libel and Joshi is brought to task. This speaks volumes about her guts and perseverence.

  14. saurjya

    simply stunning……

  15. My sister forced me to see the episode of crime petrol bcos it related to my case and that i could get some hints from it. there were tears in my eye, bcos you laid a path for me as my case is similar. half my struggle seems to be won. it took me 3 hrs yesterday just to get to know and be sure it was your case that they highlighted. Rina , hats off to you and thanks for boosting my self respect that i should not give up come what may. my case is 2 and half yrs old, but yet my foundation is not firm as the chairman of the NCW is not co-operative.Anyways thanks, i have already thanked the crime petrol team yesterday, This thanks comes to you from Mina (Names sounds rhyming) sure to win my case lets hope it reduces by some years as i will be stealing your judgement to attach to my case. God bless

  16. Yayyyyy!!!!! I am sooooo happy for her. I am also very happy that she is paid her wages. A very hearty congratulations to Rina and the whole team who fought with her….I wish many women take inspiration from this and not give up till they see victory.

  17. Mrityunjoy Chattopadhyay

    Congratulations Dr. Rina. We salute you for your patience. I am not very sure if it would be The Statesman or our judicial system responsible for the loooooooong delay in justice and hence causing all mental trauma and loss. Can’t somebody file a case against the court itself for delaying it deliberately. Would be interesting to see how a court reacts to such a truth but never accept it. A very sorry justice system – justice delayed is justice denied. Period !!!

  18. Rina Mukherji

    A big THANK YOU to all the people who have congratulated me here. I would like to add one little bit of information, Winning at the Tribunal is no guarantee that you are paid the compensation mentioned. Getting reinstated and getting your dues is another long haul. Our justice delivery system is so woefully inadequate that this must be pursued not just by me, but the state labour department too. So much for a victory!

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