Leading angel investor Mahesh Murthy was on Friday arrested by Mumbai Police for allegedly sexually harassing several women on social media platforms, including WhatsApp. Confirming the arrest, Khar police said Murthy, who had obtained anticipatory bail in the case, was later released after completion of “some paperwork”.
Late Friday, Murthy, the managing partner of Seedfund, posted on his Twitter account: “The hon’ble court granted me anticipatory bail in this case some time ago. I am told it was a procedural technical arrest and I have already been released on surety. This is the same issue on which I had filed a case and where the High Court has already passed an interim order in my favour & against the complainant back in April 2017. This is an attempt to counter-sue. I will fight this too in court to defend my reputation.”
Police said they were ascertaining the number of women who were allegedly sexually harassed by the accused. According to the preliminary investigation, police said, Murthy (52) allegedly sent obscene messages to more than five women.
According to police officers, the case was registered on December 30, 2017, after the National Commission of Woman (NCW) sought the Maharashtra DGP’s “personal involvement to investigate the matter and take strict action as per law and procedure” against Murthy, who had earlier apologised for some of his posts.
According to Registrar of Company (RoC) records, Murthy is on the board of at least five start-ups, including Brewcrafts Microbrewing Pvt Ltd, Intuitent Online Venture Pvt Ltd, Compassbox.com Global Solutions Ltd, Level 10 Entertainment Pvt Ltd and Bliss Inns Pvt Ltd among others. Murthy’s Seedfund has over 25 investees, including Carwale, RedBus, AFAQs, Chumbak and Edusports.
Although the complaint that led to the arrest was lodged by a 32-year-old Delhi resident, it was marked to the Khar station for action since the accused resided under its jurisdiction, said police.
The incident came to light after the complainant shared screenshots purportedly of her conversations on WhatsApp with Murthy in which he used objectionable, derogatory, sexual remarks and obscene signs. Later, another entrepreneur shared screenshots purportedly of a conversation with Murthy that made her “uncomfortable”.
The Delhi-based complainant then approached the NCW for help, said police. According to the complaint, Murthy got in touch with the complainant through social media to discuss business and later allegedly started sexually harassing her.
“After the case was registered, he would come to the police station whenever he was summoned for a statement. When we decided on his arrest, Murthy was not in town. On Friday, we were informed that he had returned to his Bandra residence. So a team was dispatched and he was nabbed at around 5 pm,” said a police officer.
Police said Murthy has been booked under sections 354 (D) (stalking) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC along with sections 67 (A) under the IT Act.
Last year, digital publication FactorDaily wrote a series of articles on Murthy’s alleged sexual misconduct quoting several victims. In one report, author Rashmi Bansal accused Murthy of sexual harassment 13 years ago in a cafe in Mumbai — he described the allegations as “absolute and complete lies”.
On Friday, Swati Pandey, a journalist with Reuters, who was allegedly molested by Murthy in 2003, posted a tweet: “2018 couldn’t have started on a better note. So called “star investor” Mahesh Murthy is behind bars. Women can achieve so much if they come together.”
Pandey, who chose to go public with her allegations against Murthy, said, “I am no longer ashamed of what I went through. The shame is Murthy’s.”
Apart from Bansal and Pandey, a government officer and a human resources professional, too, have alleged that Murthy allegedly sent them lewd messages through social media platforms.