Sucheta Dalal :Wipro's stunning silence over death of an employee
Sucheta Dalal

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Wipro's stunning silence over death of an employee  

February 23, 2010

 It has been over two months since the body of 26-year-old Anup Kumar Agarwal was recovered from railway tracks between Byappanahalli and Krishnarajapuram stations. Mr Agarwal was working with IT giant Wipro Ltd as an assistant manager in the finance department.

According to media reports, Mr Agarwal committed suicide shortly after the company caught him embezzling $4 million (about Rs18 crore) from its account. Last week, Wipro had said it was conducting internal investigations into alleged fraud by the employee who had gained access to a colleague's online password, and had embezzled funds for over a year.

The entire team of six employees that worked with Mr Agarwal has been sacked for negligence, said a news report.

Wipro had managed to recover around 50% of the embezzled amount and was not sure whether to file charges in the case. However, there is a stunning silence over the whole episode and netizens are raising questions over the company's responsibility.

From the limited facts narrated in the newspapers, it appears that the offence is made out at least under Section 379 of the India Penal Code (IPC) and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Depending upon the facts to be revealed in this case, Section 381 IPC (Theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master) may perhaps also be invoked and there could also possibly be a forgery-related offence. "However, none of these offences is covered in the legal obligations cast on members of the general public under Section 39 of the Criminal Penal Code, to report the offence to the police.

Therefore, it may be difficult to hold Wipro legally responsible for not reporting the matter to the police, its moral obligation notwithstanding," said a legal expert.

Wipro officials were not immediately available for comments. We are not sure whether by not reporting the matter to the authorities, the company was trying to recover its money or shield its employee and reputation.

"The issue of non-reporting of such a matter to the police may perhaps be stretched and called an act of 'mismanagement', more so if a mala fide intention to save the employee (or the like) could be attributed to the management," said the legal expert.

According to a PTI report, the police had said that Mr Agarwal has committed suicide, and his wife had given a statement in writing that her husband was going through financial problems and was worried and hence had resorted to the extreme step.

The post-mortem report said he had died of shock and haemorrhage and had suffered multiple fractures.

DC Rajappa, Railway SP, Bangalore, told PTI that Wipro had so far neither registered any complaint with the Railway Police nor asked for a probe. On the next course of action, he said no complaint was filed until now and the police will act on receiving one.

However, the death of Mr Agarwal and Wipro's silence over the period has once again raised questions about corporate governance procedures, especially after the Satyam fiasco. — Yogesh Sapkale


-- Sucheta Dalal