Row after harassment complaint against Thodupuzha bank MD leaked and read out among staff

The prime accused Jose Peter misbehaved with the woman officer on June last year, who later transferred her to the main branch, summoned her to his cabin on November 17, 2023, and harassed her again.
Image used for representation
Image used for representation

KOCHI: A sexual harassment at workplace case filed by a manager of Thodupuzha Urban Cooperative Bank Ltd (TUBCL) against managing director Jose K Peter has snowballed into a big controversy after the confidential complaint submitted to the bank chairman V V Mathayi was leaked to the accused who further intimidated the victim by asking another senior woman employee to read out the complaint at the head office after convening a meeting of manager-level persons.

What’s worse, a complaint filed with the DySP, Thodupuzha, on March 25 this year, was also leaked to the accused who read out the contents on April 1 after convening all the bank’s staff to the bank’s main office in Thodupuzha. As per the FIR, the prime accused Jose Peter misbehaved with the woman officer on June 2023, who later transferred her to the main branch, and summoned her to his cabin on November 17, 2023, and harassed her again by uttering sexually abusive language, according to the copies of the letters in possession with TNIE. The victim, a branch manager of the bank, is a widow who brought up her two children who were aged 10 and 8 when her husband passed away.

“After the complaints were leaked to the prime accused, we filed a complaint with Ernakulam range IG,” said the brother of the victim. “While my sister is running from pillar to post seeking justice, the prime accused is freely roaming and still calling the shots at the bank,” he said. The victim is a close relative of a former (late) CPM MLA. “If this can happen to a person who is close to ruling CPM, one can imagine the plight of others,” he said.

In a letter to Ernakulam range IG, the victim said she feared that the letter would be leaked out. “I had serious concerns about the confidentiality of the complaint and the way TUCBL was going to handle it. Unfortunately, my worst fears have become reality,” her letter said.

When contacted, bank chairman Mathayi told TNIE that the letter was received by the bank when he was not in office. “I don’t know how a letter marked as confidential was opened and went into the hands of the managing director. I’m initiating a probe into the matter,” he said.

The victim, who is working with TUCBL for over 30 years, has been subjected to harassment by MD Jose Peter at various times by calling the woman officer at odd hours in the night, and even seeking sexual favours, as per the FIR available with TNIE. The entire sequence of events began during the loan recovery process of Rajan Augustine, a borrower who defaulted on his loan. “On June 8, 2023, I received a letter from the Muttom police station asking to furnish details of Rajan Augustine’s loan account and SB account,” the complaint said. She reported the same to the MD who “reassured” her that he would take care of it.

“In subsequent phone calls he used sexually coloured words and indirectly threatened me of dire consequences of the police case and termination of my job if I don’t do his bidding,” she said.

Jose Peter was earlier CEO of the Muvattupuzha Urban Co-operative Bank, which evicted two minor sisters and sealed their house for defaulting on loan repayment by their hospitalised father, kicking up a row in April 2022. He resigned from the post after Minister for Cooperation V N Vasavan then ordered stringent action against the officials responsible for the action.Jose Peter could not be contacted for comments.

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