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Former HP boss in the dock over call centre murder

Held to account over taxi killing

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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 prosecution.

Mittal was MD of HP GlobalSoft in December 2005 when Murthy, 24, was killed by a taxi driver hired to take her home after a night shift in a Bangalore call centre. Karnataka State brought a prosecution under laws that require some businesses to provide safe transport for female night shift workers.

Subsequent appeals against the prosecution going ahead have now been exhausted with the Supreme Court decision on Thursday.

National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), main trade body of the Indian outsourcing industry, drew up tougher safety guidelines in the wake of Murthy's death. The guidelines say that female workers should never be the first to be picked up by a driver or the last dropped off, among other things.

Mittal, the current president of Nasscom, faces a token fine of 1,000 rupees ($25) and a criminal record if convicted.

The case has attracted considerable interest in India, which employs an estimated 700,000 call centre workers, approximately 40 per cent of who are women.

The Murthy murder is not the only such incident. Jyotikumari Chaudhary, a 21-year-old worker for Wipro, was raped and killed in Pune, near Bombay, last November, The Times reports. ®

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