Karnataka High Court refuses to quash abetment case against colleagues of LGBT employee who ended life allegedly due to harassment

The deceased ended his life on June 3 after lodging a complaint against the petitioners accusing them of harassing him at the workplace because he belongs to the Dalit community

Updated - August 15, 2023 02:20 pm IST

Published - August 15, 2023 01:12 pm IST - Bengaluru

Observing that the precious life of a 35-year-old man, who belonged to the LGBT community, was lost owing to remarks of his sexual orientation, the High Court of Karnataka refused to quash, at this early stage of the probe, a criminal case registered against three of his colleagues for alleged abetment of suicide.

Justice M. Nagaprasanna passed the order while rejecting petitions filed by Deputy General Manager (Marketing) Malathy S.B., Vice-President (Human Resources) Kumar Suraj, and Manager (Marketing) Nitish Kumar, at Lifestyle International Private Limited, Bengaluru.

The deceased, Vivek Raj, was a Manager (Visual Merchandise) in Lifestyle International. He had ended his life in his apartment in Bengaluru on June 3 after lodging a complaint against the petitioners accusing them of harassing him at the workplace because he belongs to the Dalit community.

At the time of registering the case, police booked the accused-petitioners under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. However, the High Court had stayed further proceedings on this case.

After the death of Vivek Raj, police registered another FIR based on a complaint lodged by his father. In the second FIR, the accused-petitioners were booked under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.

At this point, the accused-petitioners filed a petition seeking a stay on the investigation.

Pointing out that the petitioners had filed the petition within three days of registration of FIR under Section 306, the court said that the dispute around the facts surrounding the role of the petitioners in the death of Vivek Raj necessitates an investigation at the very least. Hence, the court refused to quash the FIR, as the investigation was at the initial stage.

Meanwhile, the court observed, “The deceased belonged to the LGBT community. The sensitivity of them being ostracised pervades in their psyche. Therefore, such people must be treated with all love and affection, and not point at the infirmity that they have no control of. If every citizen would treat such citizens with all love and care, as is done to a normal human, precious lives would not be lost.”

The court also said, “It is necessary that every one of us introspect on this issue. After all, every one of them are human beings, and all are worthy of equality.”

Based on the contents of a series of emails addressed by Vivek Raj to his higher-ups from February till June 2023, the court noted that he was being allegedly treated inappropriately as he belonged to the LGBT community, and he was repeatedly questioned on his sexuality by some of his colleagues.

While dismissing the petition, the court said that it is not appropriate to quash the FIR at the initial stage, as a probe is essential to ascertain abetment.

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