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by Dave Gradijan

Former HP India Chief Faces Prosecution over Security

Feb 21, 20082 mins
Build AutomationCSO and CISO

The former managing director of a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary in India is being prosecuted by the state government of Karnataka for not providing adequate security to an employee who was raped and murdered when traveling to work for the night shift on company-provided transport.

The prosecution of Som Mittal could have far-reaching consequences for employee security in the Indian call-center and BPO (business process outsourcing) industry. The female employee of the HP BPO center in Bangalore was raped and murdered in 2005, allegedly by a taxi driver. The subsidiary, Hewlett-Packard GlobalSoft Private, and Mittal are liable because proper security measures were not taken to prevent the crime, the local state government alleged in its case before the court.

If Mittal’s prosecution is upheld by the Karnataka court, it could set the precedent that BPO and call-center companies and their executives will be held responsible for the security of their staffs.

Some Indian BPO and call-center operations of large multinational companies like HP, Dell and IBM have thousands of employees, and there have been questions raised as to whether these companies and their Indian competitors do enough to ensure security of their staffs, particularly on night shifts. Ensuring the security of employees is difficult because of the number being transported daily and because companies rely on contractors for vehicles and drivers.

When being transported in a group, women should not be the last to be dropped off at their homes, organizations such as the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) in Delhi have recommended as part of the safety measures aimed at protecting female employees.

HP and Mittal, who is now the president of Nasscom in Delhi, appealed to the Supreme Court to avoid prosecution, but that appeal was rejected Thursday.

HP declined to comment on the case, beyond releasing a statement saying that the court’s decision does not mean the company or Mittal are guilty.

By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service (Bangalore Bureau)