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Sexual Harassment Complaint, Gag Order: Why is Bengal Guv in the Eye of a Storm?

A Raj Bhavan staffer has alleged that the West Bengal Governor had sexually harassed her twice.

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Last week, an employee at Raj Bhavan in West Bengal's Kolkata alleged she was sexually harassed twice by Governor CV Ananda Bose. The woman also lodged a complaint alleging molestation on 2 May at the Kolkata's Hare Street police station.

Notably, the development came hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed three election rallies in West Bengal on Friday, 3 May. Just two days after the allegations, the Govenor issued a directive to all staff members of Raj Bhavan to disregard summons or any other communication from the Special Enquiry Team (SET) of Kolkata Police.

He mentioned immunity under Article 361 which prohibits inquiries against the Governor for their official and personal acts during their term of office.

The allegations against the Governor have led to a political slugfest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which has been on the back foot over allegations of sexual harassment by one of its former leaders, Shahjahan Sheikh, in Sandeshkhali.

Addressing an election rally at Raina in East Midnapore district a day after the complaint was registered, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

"You were there on Thursday (2 May) night, but you did not utter a single word on this issue. You said a lot of things about Sandeshkhali. But I did not allow such things to happen there. There were some land-related problems, which my officials have solved. But what have you done?”

She further added, “I received such complaints before as well. But I did not say anything. I have seen the tears of the woman who filed the (latest) complaint. A video in this regard has come to me, which I have seen minutely,” the Chief Minister said.

So, what exactly has the woman alleged? And what has the Governor said in response to the allegations? The Quint gives you a lowdown.

Sexual Harassment Complaint, Gag Order: Why is Bengal Guv in the Eye of a Storm?

  1. 1. 'Promises of Promotion, Inappropriate Behaviour': What Did the Survivor Allege?

    In her complaint (a copy of which is with The Quint), the woman, who has been a contractual employee at Raj Bhavan since 2019, claimed that on 19 April, the Governor asked her to make some time to meet him. On 24 April, she met the Governor. During the meeting, she alleged, he touched her inappropriately.

    She further said that the Governor called her again on 2 May. However, this time the woman went to meet him with her supervisor. They were ushered to a conference room. After a brief discussion, the Governor asked the supervisor to leave the conference room, she alleged.

    The woman claimed that after her supervisor left, the Governor started telling her that she will be promoted, and said that he will call her at night, and requested her to not mention the conversation to anyone.

    "When I refused his offer, he started touching me inappropriately. I protested and came out of the room," she wrote in the complaint.

    Confirming the same, Indira Mukhopadhyay, Kolkata Police DC (Central), told the media, "A complaint was received at the Raj Bhavan outpost around 5 pm today (2 May). A woman, who is an employee of the Raj Bhavan, has filed a complaint of molestation. The complaint was lodged at the Raj Bhavan outpost. It was forwarded to Hare Street police station. We have registered the complaint and started investigation."

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  2. 2. 'A More Sinister Plot is Being Hatched in Raj Bhavan': Bengal Governor

    The Governor, however, denied the harassment allegations. "If anybody wants some election benefits by maligning me, God bless them. But they cannot stop my fight against corruption and violence in Bengal," he said.

    The Raj Bhavan Kolkata handle on X referred to the complaint as "some derogatory narratives" which were "circulated by two disgruntled employees as agents of political parties".

    Further on Friday, 3 May, he released a strongly worded audio message, saying, “Waiting for the next grenade and your hidden bullets…. Please fire”.

    The Governor also alleged of “a more sinister plot” being “hatched in Raj Bhavan”.

    "Dear members of the Raj Bhavan staff. I welcome all generous allegations and the frequent innuendos passed on me by a political force. I understand there is more in the offing. But one thing is clear. None of the absurd dramas is going to deter me from a determined effort to expose corruption and curb violence. Character assassination is the last resort of a failing malevolence. Those who engineer these filthy narratives have totally moribund character…,” the Governor said in his message in English.

    He also issued an order on 2 May banning the entry of the police and Minister of State for Finance, Chandrima Bhattacharya, into Raj Bhavan. The statement said that Bhattacharya’s entry into the Raj Bhavan premises of Kolkata, Darjeeling, and Barrackpore is banned for “defamation and anti-constitutional media statements”.

    Bhattacharya, in response to the order barring her entry to the Governor’s House premises, said, “There is no point in scaring me. No one can stop my entry into Raj Bhavan.”

    On 2 May, the Governor then flew to Kochi, according to Raj Bhavan sources. Later, at a function in Kochi on Sunday, 5 May, the Governor said that there has been an attempt to "pull" him down from his post.

    "I know that there are several such attempts happening in West Bengal... I am not the kind of person who will succumb to such pressures."
    West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose in Kochi

    He also issued a gag order to Raj Bhavan staff prohibiting them from engaging with state police regarding the sexual harassment complaint.

    In the statement posted on the official X handle of the Raj Bhavan, the Governor directed the staffers at Raj Bhavan, temporary or permanent, to ignore any communication from the state police in the matter.

    The staffers were also directed to "refrain from making any statement online, offline, in person, over the phone or in any other manner".

    “It is clear that in view of Article 361 (2) and (3) of the Constitution of India, the state police cannot act in any manner whatsoever to inquire/investigate/set in motion any kind of proceedings against the hon’ble governor,” another post read.

    Indira Mukhopadhyay, Kolkata Police DC (Central), told The Quint,

    "We had requested for CCTV footage of incident from the Raj Bhavan but we still. No one from the Raj Bhavan is cooperating with us."

    On Monday, 6 May, the Governor hit out at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for raking up the issue and dubbed her politics as "dirty".

    Speaking to reporters at the Kolkata airport, Bose said he would not allow the "Didigiri (high-handedness) of Banerjee on the distinguished office of the Governor".

    Expand
  3. 3. Can Any Legal Action be Taken Against the Governor?

    The Governor of a state is a constitutional post, as per Article 153 of the Constitution, appointed by President through a warrant under their hand and seal. They serve at the President's pleasure.

    As per Article 361 of the Constitution, the President and Governors have certain immunities as mentioned in the following clauses:

    • They cannot be held accountable in court for their actions or decisions while in office “for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties.”

    • No criminal cases can be filed against them “in any court” during their term.

    • No one can arrest or imprison them during their term.

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

'Promises of Promotion, Inappropriate Behaviour': What Did the Survivor Allege?

In her complaint (a copy of which is with The Quint), the woman, who has been a contractual employee at Raj Bhavan since 2019, claimed that on 19 April, the Governor asked her to make some time to meet him. On 24 April, she met the Governor. During the meeting, she alleged, he touched her inappropriately.

She further said that the Governor called her again on 2 May. However, this time the woman went to meet him with her supervisor. They were ushered to a conference room. After a brief discussion, the Governor asked the supervisor to leave the conference room, she alleged.

The woman claimed that after her supervisor left, the Governor started telling her that she will be promoted, and said that he will call her at night, and requested her to not mention the conversation to anyone.

"When I refused his offer, he started touching me inappropriately. I protested and came out of the room," she wrote in the complaint.

Confirming the same, Indira Mukhopadhyay, Kolkata Police DC (Central), told the media, "A complaint was received at the Raj Bhavan outpost around 5 pm today (2 May). A woman, who is an employee of the Raj Bhavan, has filed a complaint of molestation. The complaint was lodged at the Raj Bhavan outpost. It was forwarded to Hare Street police station. We have registered the complaint and started investigation."

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'A More Sinister Plot is Being Hatched in Raj Bhavan': Bengal Governor

The Governor, however, denied the harassment allegations. "If anybody wants some election benefits by maligning me, God bless them. But they cannot stop my fight against corruption and violence in Bengal," he said.

The Raj Bhavan Kolkata handle on X referred to the complaint as "some derogatory narratives" which were "circulated by two disgruntled employees as agents of political parties".

Further on Friday, 3 May, he released a strongly worded audio message, saying, “Waiting for the next grenade and your hidden bullets…. Please fire”.

The Governor also alleged of “a more sinister plot” being “hatched in Raj Bhavan”.

"Dear members of the Raj Bhavan staff. I welcome all generous allegations and the frequent innuendos passed on me by a political force. I understand there is more in the offing. But one thing is clear. None of the absurd dramas is going to deter me from a determined effort to expose corruption and curb violence. Character assassination is the last resort of a failing malevolence. Those who engineer these filthy narratives have totally moribund character…,” the Governor said in his message in English.

He also issued an order on 2 May banning the entry of the police and Minister of State for Finance, Chandrima Bhattacharya, into Raj Bhavan. The statement said that Bhattacharya’s entry into the Raj Bhavan premises of Kolkata, Darjeeling, and Barrackpore is banned for “defamation and anti-constitutional media statements”.

Bhattacharya, in response to the order barring her entry to the Governor’s House premises, said, “There is no point in scaring me. No one can stop my entry into Raj Bhavan.”

On 2 May, the Governor then flew to Kochi, according to Raj Bhavan sources. Later, at a function in Kochi on Sunday, 5 May, the Governor said that there has been an attempt to "pull" him down from his post.

"I know that there are several such attempts happening in West Bengal... I am not the kind of person who will succumb to such pressures."
West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose in Kochi

He also issued a gag order to Raj Bhavan staff prohibiting them from engaging with state police regarding the sexual harassment complaint.

In the statement posted on the official X handle of the Raj Bhavan, the Governor directed the staffers at Raj Bhavan, temporary or permanent, to ignore any communication from the state police in the matter.

The staffers were also directed to "refrain from making any statement online, offline, in person, over the phone or in any other manner".

“It is clear that in view of Article 361 (2) and (3) of the Constitution of India, the state police cannot act in any manner whatsoever to inquire/investigate/set in motion any kind of proceedings against the hon’ble governor,” another post read.

Indira Mukhopadhyay, Kolkata Police DC (Central), told The Quint,

"We had requested for CCTV footage of incident from the Raj Bhavan but we still. No one from the Raj Bhavan is cooperating with us."

On Monday, 6 May, the Governor hit out at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for raking up the issue and dubbed her politics as "dirty".

Speaking to reporters at the Kolkata airport, Bose said he would not allow the "Didigiri (high-handedness) of Banerjee on the distinguished office of the Governor".

0

Can Any Legal Action be Taken Against the Governor?

The Governor of a state is a constitutional post, as per Article 153 of the Constitution, appointed by President through a warrant under their hand and seal. They serve at the President's pleasure.

As per Article 361 of the Constitution, the President and Governors have certain immunities as mentioned in the following clauses:

  • They cannot be held accountable in court for their actions or decisions while in office “for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any act done or purporting to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties.”

  • No criminal cases can be filed against them “in any court” during their term.

  • No one can arrest or imprison them during their term.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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