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The IT giant had reportedly admitted that one of its employees committed suicide after the company caught him embezzling $4 million in December. However, till date no criminal charges have been filed against the employee.
It has been over two months since the body of 26-year-old Anup Kumar Agarwal was recovered from railway tracks between Byappanahalli and Krishnarajapuram stations. Mr Agarwal was working with IT giant Wipro Ltd as an assistant manager in the finance department.
According to media reports, Mr Agarwal committed suicide shortly after the company caught him embezzling $4 million (about Rs18 crore) from its account. Last week, Wipro had said it was conducting internal investigations into alleged fraud by the employee who had gained access to a colleague's online password, and had embezzled funds for over a year.
The entire team of six employees that worked with Mr Agarwal has been sacked for negligence, said a news report.
Wipro had managed to recover around 50% of the embezzled amount and was not sure whether to file charges in the case. However, there is a stunning silence over the whole episode and netizens are raising questions over the company's responsibility.
From the limited facts narrated in the newspapers, it appears that the offence is made out at least under Section 379 of the India Penal Code (IPC) and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Depending upon the facts to be revealed in this case, Section 381 IPC (Theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master) may perhaps also be invoked and there could also possibly be a forgery-related offence. "However, none of these offences is covered in the legal obligations cast on members of the general public under Section 39 of the Criminal Penal Code, to report the offence to the police. Therefore, it may be difficult to hold Wipro legally responsible for not reporting the matter to the police, its moral obligation notwithstanding," said a legal expert.
Wipro officials were not immediately available for comments. We are not sure whether by not reporting the matter to the authorities, the company was trying to recover its money or shield its employee and reputation.
"The issue of non-reporting of such a matter to the police may perhaps be stretched and called an act of 'mismanagement', more so if a mala fide intention to save the employee (or the like) could be attributed to the management," said the legal expert.
According to a PTI report, the police had said that Mr Agarwal has committed suicide, and his wife had given a statement in writing that her husband was going through financial problems and was worried and hence had resorted to the extreme step.
The post-mortem report said he had died of shock and haemorrhage and had suffered multiple fractures.
DC Rajappa, Railway SP, Bangalore, told PTI that Wipro had so far neither registered any complaint with the Railway Police nor asked for a probe. On the next course of action, he said no complaint was filed until now and the police will act on receiving one.
However, the death of Mr Agarwal and Wipro's silence over the period has once again raised questions about corporate governance procedures, especially after the Satyam fiasco.
According to some industry experts, commercial real-estate prices in India have started stabilising and rentals are also rising; but others disagree.
Commercial real estate, which was in the doldrums over the past year, is on a gradual recovery path, claim industry analysts. They expect prices to stabilise by March 2010 and then witness an uptrend in the April-June 2010 quarter.
“The results of this quarter (December 2009) indicate that with improving economic conditions in India, the commercial property market is also getting fortified and moving closer to stabilisation. Tenant demand has been improving gradually over the past two quarters and confidence about future rental activity is also quite positive,” said Sachin Sandhir, managing director and country head, RICS India.
“There has been a rise in the number of (customer) enquiries in February compared to the earlier situation. It is not as bad as it was, but that does not mean that rents will go up and occupancy levels will increase. Interest is building up, but gradually, “said Pranay Vakil, chairman, Knight Frank.
However, a few industry experts point out that non-resident Indians (NRIs), who are a major factor driving property prices, are not ready to pay more than the prevailing prices. Consumers are still negotiating to bring down prices, although not as aggressively as earlier. They also say that vested interests are painting an over-optimistic picture of the market conditions in collaboration with the media.
“Commercial real-estate will at least take a year to revive. I feel prices won’t go up during this period. A sentiment of optimism is being created by players who have lined up their initial public offers (IPOs) in the coming months,” said Pankaj Kapoor, founder of real-estate research firm Liases and Foras Vishal Gupta, vice-president, project advisory and structured finance, SBI Capital Markets, echoed the same opinion. “Commercial real-estate prices are not going to move up for some time. There will be lower supply in the short term and prices of office space are currently sustainable. Banks are also not keen on financing commercial projects.”
“Rental declines have more or less stagnated but the amount of space available and in the pipeline will keep rental increases in check, barring industrial space where there is comparatively lesser available space. The modest rise in capital values across sectors is also encouraging,” said Mr Sandhir of RICS India.
According to a survey conducted by RICS, investor purchasing has increased by approximately 20% in industrial spaces and 35% in office spaces, but is still down by 10% in the retail segment. Between April and June 2010, the availability of office space will increase by around 50% in retail, 10% in the industrial segment and 55% in office space.
“We don’t see an upward movement in prices in the next eight to nine months. On a country-wide scale, the supply of new projects has doubled compared to last year, and the demand increased by 15% last quarter. In Mumbai, there is almost 50% over-supply of commercial real estate,” said Raja Kaushal, executive director & chief operating officer, BNP Paribas Real Estate.
He added, “South Mumbai will soon be flooded by 12 lakh sq ft commercial space. There will be a lot of options available for customers. By June 2010, 10 million sq ft of developed commercial space will hit the market and another 5 million sq ft will be available by December 2010.” This will also create downward pressure on rentals.