Exclusive: Four women accused ex-Delhi govt official of misconduct | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Exclusive: Four women accused ex-Delhi govt official of misconduct

By, New Delhi
Aug 25, 2023 10:52 AM IST

The complaints were made by women working at a mental health unit in Sewa Kutir complex on a contractual basis.

Four women complained of sexual harassment between 2018 and 2022 by Premoday Khakha, the suspended assistant director of Delhi government’s women and child development (WCD) department who was arrested on Monday for allegedly raping a minor girl multiple times at his residence between November 2020 and January 2021.

Premoday Khakha(LinkedIn)
Premoday Khakha(LinkedIn)

Two of these complaints have now become cases pending before the Delhi high court.

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According to people familiar with the matter as well as documents seen by HT, the WCD department received four complaints of sexual harassment by Khakha between 2018 and 2022 from four women working at a mental health unit in Sewa Kutir complex in Kingsway Camp, where he was posted as superintendent. The complainants, employed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), were then working at the mental health unit on a contractual basis.

“While two of the complaints were made by counsellors , one complaint was filed by a clinical psychologist working at the mental health unit. An anonymous complaint with similar charges was also filed against Khakha, who was himself heading the litigation wing of the department at the time,” said a senior WCD department official who confirmed the existence of the complaints on condition of anonymity. HT has reviewed the complaints.

Khakha’s counsel, Uma Shanker Gautam, expressed surprise at the existence of the sexual harassment complaints. “We don’t have any knowledge (about this),” he said.

In two of the complaints, the internal committee (IC) of WCD which has four members and a presiding officer (an official of the WCD department) concluded that the harassment could not be proved. “The IC observed that the allegation against the respondent has not been proved, it is the recommendation of the IC that no action is required to be taken in this matter,” it said in a note. HT has seen a copy of the note.

In both cases, the complainants challenged the IC’s report in the Delhi high court.

“The department filed an affidavit in the first case on February 5, 2022 and the next date of hearing is on September 26, 2023. In the second one, the affidavit was filed on June 30 this year and the next date of hearing has been fixed for November 30, 2023,” the WCD official cited above added.

According to the official, the third complainant approached the high court directly in June 2021 and she was asked to “approach the appropriate authority”. It isn’t known if she approached the IC after that.

“In the complaint by the anonymous victim, the vigilance wing of the department noted that it should not be considered due to lack of merit,” the official said.

The first complainant said in her complaint that between December 1, 2018 and April 7, 2019, Khakha allegedly misbehaved with her many times, passing objectionable remarks. “He (Khakha) often used to pass comments on my figure and clothes before others like ‘apna figure itna maintain kaise rakhti ho (how do you maintain your figure) and kya doosre ka kapda pahankar aati ho ki kuchh pata nahin chalta (Do you wear others’ clothes that we can’t notice your figure).”

She told HT over the phone that Khakha repeatedly pestered her to have sex with him. “He is not a tolerable boss. Once he even tried to pull me on his lap in front of my colleagues. When things became completely unbearable for me, I resigned and filed a complaint against him. He threatened me with dire consequences, when he came to know about the complaints, but I will not stop till I get justice.”

The second and third victims said that Khakha was a terror in the remand homes and Sewa Kutir.

Khakha joined the department of social welfare in 1998 — of which WCD department was a part at the time — as a probation welfare officer in 1996. Over 25 years, he rose from a probationary welfare officer to one of the most powerful positions in the department, even serving as an officer on social duty (OSD) for the WCD minister for one year between March 2022 and March 2023.

The WCD department was carved out as a separate department in November 2007.

The second complainant said Khakha used “filthy language” when referring to juveniles under his care and also the counsellors. “It was routine for him to grab women by their hand or push them; he used to publicly call us playthings.”

The complainant also alleged that Khakha once tried to drug her. “One evening, around closing time, he asked me to have some cola-like drink. Since I could not refuse my boss, I drank it. After five minutes, I started feeling dizzy. I tried to escape from his chamber in Sewa Kutir. He rushed at me and started touching me all over. I somehow managed to escape. From then, till I resigned I never went to him alone,” she said.

The third complainant said Khakha used to woo women with flowers and chocolates. “And whenever he used to find some woman alone, his opening line was the same ‘mujhse kya darna, maine to nasbandi kara liya hai (Not to afraid, I am already vasectomised).”

Rajendra Pal Gautam, who held the WCD portfolio till March 2022, told HT “There were no complaints of sexual harassment during my tenure”.

Kailash Gahlot, who was WCD minister between 2022 and earlier this year, did not respond to requests for comment.

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