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back to article Former HP boss in the dock over call centre murder

The Indian supreme court has cleared the way for prosecution of an HP boss for alleged liability in the rape and murder of a call centre worker by a cab driver contracted by the company. The court ruled that Som Mittal was potentially responsible for the safety and protection of Pratibha Srikant Murthy, clearing the way for a …

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Dan
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How safe is safe ?

They called for a taxi for her.....I presume a legitimate taxi company and not just grabbed any old unlicensed taxi in the street. So what more should they do ? They provided what any normal person would consider to be a safe form of transport. How are they supposed to know that the taxi driver was a murdering nut case ?

In a country of over a billion people what are they advocating ? Male workers go with female works on every trip ? Whats to stop the male worker being murdered ? Whats to stop the the male worker from being a rapist or murderer ? Maybe armed guards in all taxi's to protect the passenger from the 1 in a billion chance that the taxi driver is a nutter !!!!

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Black Helicopters

Where's Foggy Bottom when you need them ?

Where's Foggy Bottom when you need them , bet warren knows why ?

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Re: How safe is safe ?

Armed guards don't help out in the event of a traffic accident... I think that they should all probably be wrapped in at least 39 meters of bubble wrap, then locked in a safe, which is then placed in an armoured truck driven by extremely well-paid mercenaries. Of course you'd have to implant some sort of explosive in each mercenary so they would be easy to punish if they messed up.

Just to be safe(er) throw in 3 attack helocopters, 6 modern air-air combat jets, a sophisticated AWACS, and a few cops as escort.

Then again you'd probably still be vulnerable to all sorts of missiles and ballistics, so you'd need to develop one of those laser defense thingers to the point that it could actually shoot things down...

Maybe you could just let them work from home.

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maybe a new business should start up over there

to transport female workers home after night shift jobs in armored personnel carriers. cost a pretty penny more than the taxi, but guaranteed litigation free.

if this goes through, then employers will be afraid to hire women because of the liabilities.

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Explanation required

@Dan:

I live in India (Hyderabad) and have worked in a call centre during a few summers and I spent my final semester interning at the Dell call centre here (systems admin/maintenance).

The HP people did NOT "call" for a cab. Call centres here maintain huge fleets of vehicles (mostly white Tata Indicas and Tata Sumos) for the express purpose of transporting their employees. These days, it's assumed that any call centre will provide pick-up and drop facilities to their employees. So the car makes a round, picking up/dropping about four people at a time and each cab+driver has a predetermined route (they used to text me when the cab was about to reach my place). Dell alone has over 400 dedicated cars. It's not like they just whistle for any old passing cab.

In this scenario, it is obviously possible for the company to vet the antecedents of their drivers. And NASSCOM guidelines here do explicitly specify that a female employee must never be the last/first person to be picked up, which may not prevent such incidents, but just the presence of someone else will most likely prevent such mishaps.

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Alert

How come...

...when I've had a shitty call-centre job in the UK, no bugger picked me up & drove me to work? Eh? Eh?

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Unhappy

I was going to...

....make a ham-fisted attempt at a smart assed joke here.

But no aspect of this sad story is funny.

My sympathy to the victim's loved ones and colleagues, and my encouragement to Mr. Mittal, whom I can't see as being directly or indirectly responsible for this tragedy.

I just hope they find the murdering rapist and hang him by the furry dice.

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Anonymous Coward

What's more...

Many of these 'professional' drivers are the worst on the roads.

Not only cars, but mini-buses and even coaches, are provided to transport employees of call centre, BPO, software, consultancy, etc, etc companies.

Look... it is a good idea. Else how many more cars and bikes would we have on our streets? And the bike riders are even worse than the cab drivers.

Being a lousy driver doesn't mean being a murderer, and given the huge number of these drivers it is probably less likely that one is going to rape/kill his passenger than it is that a London cab driver would (it's happened, hasn't it?)

The news reports of this case are some time back, and dim in my memory, but, if I remember rightly, this guys advances had been spurned already; they were not strangers to each other. *If* she had made complaints about this, then that might have something to do with the alleged company liability.

I also live in Southern India, but am happy to say that I have not worked since that last day of walking out of a London IT department.

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Health & Safety

How fascinating to read all the comments poo-poo'ing the very thought that the employer should have been responsible for this wretched young woman's safety......

It is clear that Mr Mittall has, as he would in any other civilised country, a duty of care regarding the safety of his employees. What is less clear is the degree to which he failed to exercise that duty of care.

Or is it all different because all this happens to be taking place in India?

We outsource to India because skilled labour is cheap. It would be appalling to think that we do it because we consider individuals' lives to be cheap as well........

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@TrishaD

> How fascinating to read all the comments poo-poo'ing the very thought that the employer should have been responsible for this wretched young woman's safety......

Interesting, I have read, and re-read, all of the comments posted before yours, and don't see a SINGLE ONE that intimates that the employer shouldn't have had any responsibility as to the wellbeing of their employees while on the job, and the fact that this happened in India is rather immaterial, other that you seem to show your own cultural bias when you call this educated, skilled young woman who lost her life to a criminal "wretched".

Elsewhere in the world, most employers are not responsible for the transportation of their workers to or from the workplace. They expect the employee to make their own arrangements, whether by private or public transportation. It is an interesting "perk", one that allows them to pay their employees less because it lowers the employee's cost of living.

You should also note regulations that are based on the sex of the employee would be completely illegal in many places under the guise of anti-discrimination. I have to treat my male and female employees exactly the same. I cannot offer one something that I don't offer the other. I cannot pay one more than I pay the other. Equal pay for equal work, etc.

Of course, as a business owner I have my own economic realities. I will hire the most qualified person for the money no matter the color of their skin or how many X chromosome's they may have in the makeup of their cells. If person X can do the same work as person Y, but person Y is willing to work for less, there is no reason for me to pay person Y more or person X less. The same reasoning extends to outsourcing. If employee A can do the same work as employee B, even through they are in different countries, why should I pay either one more than the minimum amount that either one of them is willing to work? After all, if you go shopping to buy some soup and two stores sitting side-by-side have the same soup, but one of them has it on sale, why go to the more expensive store? Of course, if the soups aren't the same and the more expensive store has better soup, or maybe the less expensive store is further away and thus increases your cost of transporting it, then you have to balance the worth of the soup vs the total cost. But then, they aren't equal any more are they....

I am saddened that one of his employees was killed, but I am also saddened that they are trying to hold a executive of a company CRIMINALLY LIABLE for something that over which he had no direct control, nor would he have had any reason to have had any direct control. It isn't like he ordered the cab driver to kill the person. I am also saddened that someone would try to turn this into a "us" vs "them" debate.

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@Nexox Enigma

Re: How safe is safe ?

Indeed. How about rounding up all the murdering rapists, putting them in a remote place, the moon maybe, and then nuking the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

BTW, you owe me a new keyboard.

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@ Donn Bly

'Wretched' would seem a fairly apt description for someone who has lost their life during an avoidable attack, dont you think?

The posters in question trivialised the fact that the woman in question was murdered, choosing instead to indulge in smartarse sneering about the very concept that an employer might be liable for the welfare of an employee on their journey to and from work. You obviously feel the same way so lets look at the basics shall we?

In India, as in the UK, the employer is indeed criminally liable should they fail in their duty of care to the employee. The woman in question worked shifts and lived in a culture where private car ownership is not widespread and public transport insufficiently developed to be a viable alternative. Quite reasonably therefore the employers arranged transport facilities, both for the benefit of the employee and of course to benefit themselves. Having provided this service, they rendered themselves liable for the welfare of those using that service. The degree of that liability is the issue under debate and that is a matter for the courts in India to determine, not you or I. You will note that I have at no time accused Mr Mittal of negligence.

My other point however is that the West also have a duty of care. We have the duty of care to ensure that those organisations who we employ to provide services to us at competitive prices do not exploit their workforces in order to do so. Because people are in fact NOT cans of soup. The fact that this incident has occurred in India is therefore of particular interest and I find it encouraging that the workforce of companies in India enjoy similar protection in criminal law to workers in the UK.

Your argument regarding sexual discrimination is nonsense. We are not considering discriminatory treatment, we are measuring relative risk. Women are more vulnerable to sexual assault and attack than men are and to invoke controls (as Nasscom, to their great credit, have done) to mitigate that risk is not discrimination.

I find it saddening that you are hiding behind accusations of cultural bias and sexual discrimination actually.......

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Coat

Wretched is perhaps not the word your thinking of

Wretched

Adjective -er -est

1. despicable, contemptible, or mean: a wretched miser.

2. poor, sorry, or pitiful; worthless: a wretched job of sewing.

Not quite the word i would use to describe the victim Trisha.

[Insert 2c here]

I fail to see how you can hold the company executive responsible. The hiring officer yes but the CEO? It's not like he personally interviews each of the drivers, he has a department head that does that. If the department head is the one held responsible fair enough but the CEO... that's taking things a little too far imho.

[/end 2c]

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Wretched

I stand corrected.... Although 'pitiful' might suit at a pinch....

If the law in India is anything like the law in the UK (and I suspect it is), then the CEO would be responsible legally. Its not completely unlike the concept of Corporate Manslaughter. Placing overall responsibility in the hands of Execs may see over-draconian, but it prevents unscrupulous managers from throwing some minion to the wolves and does tend to focus the mind.........

One thing that's not been commented on on the original story is the likelyhood that Mr Mittal will in fact only face a symbolic fine. This would seem to me to be Justice at work rather than Law.......

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