Panaji/Mumbai: Four employees of Fabindia were released on bail by a Goa court on Saturday, as Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar ruled out any mischief and the company issued an apology to union HRD minister Smriti Irani over the alleged CCTV snooping at a store in the coastal state. But there was fresh trouble for the boutique chain as the media unearthed another voyeuristic scandal in a Maharashtra store.
The manner in which the incident played out in the media, both nationally and internationally, forced both the Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the Congress in Goa to express concern about the image of the state, which they believed was being tarnished.
Earlier in the day, four employees of Fabindia's store in Candolim, who were arrested on Friday for allegedly setting up a CCTV camera which overlooked the store's changing room where Human Resource Development Minister Irani was trying out clothes, were granted bail by a trial court.
The four - Karim Lakhani, Prashant Naik, Raju Panche and Paresh Bhagat - were released on a personal bond of Rs.5,000 each, after the Judicial Magistrate First Class Mapusa accepted the contention of the defence counsel that the CCTV camera was not installed with malafide intention.
All the four accused are junior employees of the boutique chain and were arrested following a complaint by BJP legislator Michael Lobo under charges of voyeurism, intrusion into privacy and under the Information Technology Act.
The Crime Branch, which is investigating the case, is expected to record statements of senior officials of Fabindia as well as managing director William Bissell.
Meanwhile, in Maharashtra's Kolhapur district, Fabindia employee Prakash Ananda Ispurle, who was arrested on March 31 for filming a woman customer using a mobile phone at the store located in Tarabai Park area, was released on bail on Friday.
According to Kolhapur district police, the incident occurred on March 31 and Ispurle was arrested after the woman filed a complaint on April 1 on charges of outraging modesty under the Indian Penal Code. Ispurle was in judicial custody since his arrest.
On Saturday, Fabindia Overseas Pvt. Ltd. formally apologised to Irani in reaction to the Goa incident, but denied that there were any hidden cameras installed anywhere in the store or in the trial rooms and that the camera in question was part of a surveillance system at the outlet.
"We would like to convey our apologies to the hon' minister Smriti Irani for the inconvenience that has been inadvertently caused," the firm said in a statement.
"There were no hidden cameras anywhere in the store including the trial rooms. There are cameras in full public view and the fact (that) surveillance cameras are installed is prominently displayed in all the stores," the statement said.
Fabindia assured that its staff and store manager were fully cooperating with police in the investigation to ensure it reaches the logical conclusion.
Superintendent of Police (Crime Branch) Karthik Kashyap later said Fabindia officials "are cooperating in the investigation", but they have sought time to appear before the investigators.
The company has also appointed its own three-member women's team to probe the incident and said that if any mischief has been perpetrated by anybody, such person should be punished as per law.
"Fabindia and its products are loved by women across the country and the globe. We highly value the dignity of women and stand for it. Customer is supreme for us," it said.
Reacting to the controversy, Parsekar, who is currently attending the BJP national executive in Bengaluru, told reporters that the installation of the camera was in all likelihood not intended to cause mischief.
"It appears they (Fabindia) have not done it on purpose," Parsekar said.
He said the incident should not be used to pass judgement about the safety of women in the country.
"Please do not give a wrong impression about Goa. Women are safe in our state," he said.
The Congress in a statement issued here claimed that the allegedly intrusive incident had slandered the image of Goa globally.
"Goa's image has gone for a toss at the international level because of this incident. Police should audit CCTV footage of hotels, malls, clubs, discos in the entire coastal belt in the state to stop such untoward incident," Congress secretary Durgadas Kamat said.