Abusive employer

Warrant officer hit maid over ironing

Rajakumari was found guilty yesterday of five charges of causing hurt to her maid between February and March 2012.
Rajakumari was found guilty yesterday of five charges of causing hurt to her maid between February and March 2012.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

An army warrant officer hit, pinched and slapped her new maid because the latter did not perform chores to her satisfaction.

K. Rajakumari, who turns 56 today, also abused her maid with caustic remarks, called her "stupid" and ignored her plea to be sent back to her agent.

After a 14-day trial, Rajakumari, who has since retired from the army after 35 years of service, was yesterday found guilty of five charges of causing hurt to Indian national Sargunam Jeeva, now 40, at her Canberra Drive condo between February and March 2012.

Ms Jeeva first came to Singapore in late January 2012 and Rajakumari picked the maid up from her agent three days later.

She checked the maid's belongings and removed a Ministry of Manpower leaflet and other materials with contact details that the maid had written down.

Ms Jeeva was to be paid $350 a month, without any days off.

On the evening of March 5, Rajakumari told Ms Jeeva to heat some briyani from the previous day. But the food had gone bad and the maid was scolded and slapped in the face. Rajakumari then pulled Ms Jeeva's hair and pushed her face against some window grilles. The maid fell and, as she tried to get up, Rajakumari kicked her.

By the second week of February 2012, Rajakumari would scold her regularly. But the abuse got physical after that.

One night, Rajakumari hit Ms Jeeva in her back. Later that month, she scolded her for taking a long time to answer the door, called her "stupid", then hit the maid's forehead with her fist.

On the night of March 3, 2012, after Ms Jeeva ironed Rajakumari's uniform, the employer tossed it aside and berated the maid for not knowing how to iron properly.

Rajakumari then hit Ms Jeeva's left arm with a plastic hanger. The maid cried loudly, but Rajakumari continued scolding her.

The next day, at about 7.30pm, Rajakumari dropped a cup in the kitchen while getting it from a rack. She scolded Ms Jeeva for not stacking cups properly and pinched her left arm three times.

On the evening of March 5, Rajakumari told Ms Jeeva to heat some briyani from the previous day. But the food had gone bad and the maid was scolded and slapped in the face. Rajakumari then pulled Ms Jeeva's hair and pushed her face against some window grilles. The maid fell and, as she tried to get up, Rajakumari kicked her.

Ms Jeeva told the employer she "could not withstand this torture any more" and pleaded to be sent back to her agent. But Rajakumari told her this was not possible as she had paid to employ her.

That night, Ms Jeeva gestured to a maid in a neighbouring unit for help and the latter called the police.

A policeman later heard Rajakumari tell Ms Jeeva "please forgive me, I won't do this any more. Please don't tell anyone about the abuse".

Unknown to Rajakumari, the officer understood Tamil. Rajakumari later admitted to hitting Ms Jeeva.

The maid has since completed a two-year contract with another employer, who has renewed it.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana and defence lawyer A. P. Thirumurthy will argue on an appropriate sentence before District Judge Imran Hamid on Oct 5.

Rajakumari faces a penalty of up to three years' jail and a $7,500 fine for each of her five charges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Warrant officer hit maid over ironing '. Print Edition | Subscribe