A former assistant executive with the Taj Hotels has spoken out about the group's then CEO and MD Rakesh Sarna, accusing him of sexual harassment when she was an employee with the company in 2014.

According to a report published in the Indian Express, Anjuli Pandit has alleged that the harassment case pertains to 2015 and despite her filing several complaints with Taj Hotel's Internal Complaints Committee, the company has failed to carry out a probe in the case. Instead, she was asked to resign immediately and offered an alternative "mediocre" role in Taj Sons.

Anjuli Pandit, who was initially working at Tata Sons in the then chairman Cyrus Mistry's office in 2014, was transferred to Sarna's office a year later as his executive assistant, on his request. According to a report of The Indian Express, Sarna's inappropriate advances towards Pandit began almost immediately, when they spoke on the phone to discuss her salary.

The report quoted Pandit as saying, "In December, we had an uncomfortable phone call to discuss my salary and when I wasn’t happy with his offer, Sarna said, ‘I think you are beautiful enough to pay you a crore, but I don’t have that kind of money honey.’ That was the first indication I had that something was not right."

In an account of the ordeal, Pandit wrote, "The sexual advances started with comments about the worth of my physical appearance during our salary discussions. Over the seven months, he remarked on my looks, his attraction towards me and his desire to have an affair. His advances were always verbal. And I was always clear — I was not interested. Whether I deflected, professionally requested, or burst into tears in frustration, he persisted. The environment became intolerable as we both lost our patience."

In the report, she detailed the various avenues she considered to tackle the problem, none of which resulted in appropriately effective and satisfactory action. However, she said that even though she "spent some time in denial, hoping he (Sarna) would let it go," the "incredible spirit" of her other colleagues at Taj "outweighed his disturbing comments".

Pandit said she began having "migraines and sleepless nights" due to the harassment.

Pandit said that after approaching Taj board members, Tata Group Executive Council members and the office of the chairman, she was given the option of resigning from Taj Group along with a demotion. Disheartened by the response, she quit.

She was in a dilemma to pursue a legal battle against the Group, but she decided not to, saying:

“To pursue legally, you need a legal representative, who is willing (and capable) to take on a large corporation’s legal prowess, substantial proof of the harassment (which can be impossible if verbal or physical in nature), and serious amounts of personal commitment and capital to fight a possibly decade-long legal battle.”

The former employee said she had also refused to sign a letter by a law firm representing the company that asked her not to speak about the incident in public.

Despite Sarna's departure in May 2017, a new committee was formed to look into the matter. However, Pandit told The Indian Express that she has not been given a copy of the panel’s findings on her allegations, despite having deposed in front of it.

The Economic Times, in an article published last year, said that Sarna quit IHCL after a ‘ghost letter' accusing him of sexual harassment surfaced.

Sarna had said at the time that his departure from the company was due to "personal reasons”.

Explaining why she turned to the media, Pandit wrote in her article that she hopes to encourage loved ones to speak the truth.

Anjuli Pandit said, “I attended the Women’s Forum this year and they asked us whether #Metoo creates a divide between men and women. One woman said, no, it creates a divide between the people who cover up harassment and those who feel a duty to expose it. We all unanimously agreed that this is the corporate environment we want to leave behind for our daughters.”

(With inputs from The Indian Express and The Economic Times)