Delhi WCD minister seeks report on old complaints against rape-accused Khakha
WCD department received complaints of sexual harassment by Khakha between 2018 and 2022 from four women working at mental health unit.
A system that does not take complaints of sexual harassment seriously becomes party to the crimes against women, Delhi women and child development minister Atishi wrote to the Delhi chief secretary on Saturday — a day after HT reported that at least four women had filed complaints of sexual harassment between 2018 and 2022 against Premoday Khakha, the suspended senior Delhi government official who has been accused of raping a minor girl for over three months at his home.
In a letter to chief secretary Naresh Kumar, Atishi also sought a detailed report on the complaints against Khakha and the delay in action on them.
HT has seen a copy of the letter.
Khakha, who was assistant director in Delhi government’s women and child development (WCD) department, was arrested on Monday for allegedly raping a minor girl in his care multiple times at his home between November 2020 and January 2021.
HT reported on Friday that 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.
“Not taking action in time, encourages wrongdoers. A system that does not take complaints of sexual harassment seriously becomes party to the crimes against women. Perpetrators begin to feel that there are no repercussions to their behaviour and become emboldened. It puts the women and girls around them at a higher risk,” Atishi said in the letter.
The chief secretary said that stern action will be taken against the officers concerned, if found guilty.
Atishi said that if senior government officials were aware of the complaints against Khakha, then it raises serious questions as to how complaints are handled, inquiries done and disciplinary action taken. “How can senior officers turn a blind eye to such complaints? What makes this incident especially alarming is that the officer in question was working in the women and child department. How could someone accused of sexual harassment of women be allowed to work in a department responsible for the protection and welfare of women and children,” Atish wrote.
She added that the “indifference” shown by the government machinery in handling such serious complaints and delay in disciplinary action is “truly shocking”. In the letter, the minister also directed the chief secretary to provide a detailed report on the timeline of the complaints, the officers who handled them, the nature of inquiry, the senior most officer aware of these complaints and whether any disciplinary action was taken against him (Khakha) or not.
When contacted, Kumar said that he is looking into the matter. “Stern action will be taken against all those officers, who will be found guilty of protecting Khakha. No dilly-dally approach can be tolerated in handling such sensitive issues,” he said.
HT reported that 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,” the committee 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,” said a senior WCD official, asking not to be named.
According to the official, the third complainant also approached the high court in June 2021, where she was asked to approach the appropriate authority, whereas in 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.
Khakha, who joined the department of social welfare as probationary welfare officer in 1998 — of which WCD department was a part at the time — rose to one of the most powerful positions in the department in last 25-odd years, even serving as an officer on social duty (OSD) for the WCD minister for one year between March 2022 and March 2023.
According to the statement by the minor victim, she went to Khakha’s house in Burari from her parents’ residence in Usmanpur to overcome depression due to her father’s death. She told the police that Khakha first raped her on October 31, 2020.
He then raped her several times till January 21 when she got pregnant. She said when she told Khakha’s wife about it, she fed her abortion pills. Both Khakha and his wife are in judicial custody.
Khakha allegedly molested the minor girl at the independent Amazing Grace church in Burari — a small cult of sorts of 30-odd families that is not affiliated to any official diocese — whenever he saw her there after February 2021, police said, citing the statement of the 17-year-old rape survivor.