His story bears an uncanny resemblance to the 1994 Demi Moore- Michael Douglas starrer Disclosure, although unlike in the film, the gentleman and lady in question were not exlovers and neither did any hint of temptation run through the victim’s mind.
Digambar Gaikwad woke up one fine day nearly a decade ago, faced with a complaint of molestation against him filed by one of his colleagues, who was vying for the same plum job as him — that is the post of a coordinator of a World Bank project. It took over five years of legal battle to see the case to its logical end, scaling right up to the country’s apex court. Not stopping at that, Gaikwad, who was a deputy director with the state agriculture department, Shivajinagar, at the time, sought compensation from the lady and has now been awarded Rs 10 lakh as damages.
The case dates back to November 2008. Sunanda Kurhade, also a deputy director in the agriculture department, filed a complaint against Gaikwad alleging that he had molested her while they were travelling together in an official car on November 5, 2008. Five days later, she filed an internal complaint with the commissioner of the department and on November 19 an FIR with the cops. Back then, Kurhade was in her 30s while Gaikwad was 57, only a few months away from his retirement in May 2009.
A day after the FIR, Gaikwad was arrested and released on bail. He proceeded on leave and contemplated voluntary retirement. He even left his Pune house, choosing to move to his wife’s village. While on the one hand he had to appear for an internal inquiry, regular appearances in court were required as cops had filed a chargesheet. All along, he pleaded innocence, arguing that Kurhade was in the race for the same post as he was.
In April 2010, the additional chief judicial magistrate acquitted him. “It can be inferred that the complainant in order to get appointment for the post of coordinator, implicated the accused in a false, frivolous complaint,” Magistrate V K Kadam ordered on April 28, 2010. The cops appealed in higher courts but were not successful. Kurhade, too, approached the Bombay High Court but in vain. Lastly she filed a special leave petition in Supreme Court of India, which was also dismissed in 2014, leaving no doubt that Gaikwad was innocent and that he had been falsely implicated.
The internal inquiry, however found him guilty. Gaikwad challenged the inquiry report before the Governor and was declared innocent. It was found that the driver of the official vehicle in which the alleged incident took place was never questioned in the internal inquiry.
Having cleared his name at all levels, Gaikwad filed a defamation case against Kurhade in Pune’s Small Causes Court in June 2012. He sought Rs 60 lakhs from her — Rs 50 lakhs is what he claimed he would have earned had he notched the coordinator’s job, and Rs 10 lakhs for loss of reputation. On January 6, 2017, Magistrate CP Jain ordered that Kurhade has to pay damages to the tune of Rs 10 lakhs to Gaikwad within two months. “On failure to pay the amount within aforesaid time, defendant (Kurhade) shall pay six per cent per annum interest on Rs 10 lakhs till the realisation of amount,” the order stated.
While Gaikwad is yet to get the money, he is a happy man. A full time farmer on a farm owned by his wife in Dehu village, 30 kms from Pune, he said that he can sleep peacefully now. “For years I couldn’t sleep properly. Everyone around me knew that the complaint was false and yet only a few stood by me. I was caught between trips to the department and courts in Pune, Mumbai and even Delhi. It took a lot for me to prove my innocence. I had made up my mind that I won’t give up ever,” said Gaikwad.
He explained that once he had been given a clean chit by HC, he decided to sue his former colleague, whom he treated “like a daughter”.
“My reputation had been dented. From being a straight forward deputy director in the agriculture department with not a single blot on my career of 35 years, I had become this monster who had apparently molested a lady much younger than him. Some of my close associates and friends gave up on me. Fortunately, my wife and two kids stood by me. Now I feel so much better. The outcome of this case is a lesson for all those who file false cases,” concluded Gaikwad.
When Mirror contacted Kurhade, who is currently posted in Kolhapur, she said, “I am not aware of the order as yet and cannot comment.”
¦ For years, I couldn’t sleep properly. Everyone around me knew that the complaint was false and yet only a few stood by me
— Digambar Gaikwad, retd dy director, state agriculture dept