Woman accused of maid abuse acquitted on all charges

Ms Ketaki Rai was given a discharge amounting to an acquital. Two others linked to the case were also given similar discharges. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A woman accused of assaulting her domestic helper and committing forgery has been given a discharge amounting to an acquittal on all of her charges following a trial.

This means Indian national and Singapore permanent resident Ketaki Rai, 36, cannot be charged again with the same offences.

Two other people allegedly linked to the case – Indian national Varsha Ray, 28, and Singaporean Ahjay Rai Lalhar, 43 – who were accused of forgery, were also given a similar discharge each.

District Judge Ronald Gwee came to this decision on Thursday after the Indonesian maid, Ms Susi Rimasari, left Singapore prior to the start of the trial.

He noted that Ms Susi was an unwilling witness and that it was not a situation where the prosecution had failed to expend sufficient effort to find her to give evidence during the trial.

Judge Gwee also said this situation had put the accused people at a disadvantage, adding that they should be entitled to have the accuser come forward in court to be open to cross-examination.

Ms Ketaki had earlier faced two counts each of assault and forgery. Ms Varsha and Mr Ahjay were each accused of one count of forgery.

Ms Ketaki was accused of slapping Ms Susi once in 2015 and another time in 2016.

On or around Sept 5, 2016, Ms Ketaki was said to have submitted to the Ministry of Manpower a forged three-page document comprising monthly salary receipt acknowledgements for June 2015 to May 2016 purportedly signed off by Ms Susi.

She was also accused of working together with Ms Varsha and Mr Ahjay to commit forgery some time between Jan 1 and Sept 12, 2017, by allegedly making a false one-page apology letter, purportedly signed by the maid.

According to court documents, Ms Ketaki is married to Mr Ahjay’s brother, while Ms Varsha is Mr Ahjay’s wife.

In his submissions, defence lawyer Amarjit Singh Sidhu said that Ms Ketaki employed Ms Susi on Jan 19, 2011, mainly to take care of her two sons and perform household chores.

The lawyer from Amarjit Sidhu Law Corp added: “While Susi had made several mistakes and misdeeds over the course of her employment, such as taking monies and belongings without Ketaki’s permission, and emptying Ketaki’s facial serum when she was unhappy that she got a scolding from Ketaki, Ketaki did not terminate Susi’s employment as she viewed Susi as a good helper who could take care of her sons well.

“Save for scolding Susi whenever she did not do a good job in caring for her sons or household chores, Ketaki denies causing any physical harm to Susi.”

Mr Amarjit told the court that Ms Susi left her workplace at around 5am on June 13, 2016, and sought help at a shelter, alleging that she had been physically abused and that Ms Ketaki had owed her salary.

The police were then alerted.

After the trial, the lawyer said in his submissions that it would be unsafe to convict Ms Ketaki, Mr Ahjay and Ms Varsha, adding: “(Ms Susi’s) non-appearance in court has caused irremediable prejudice to the accused. (Ms Susi’s) evidence cannot be tested under the scrutiny of cross-examination.”

If convicted of maid abuse, Ms Ketaki could have been jailed for up to three years and fined up to $7,500 for each charge.

For each count of forgery, an offender can be jailed for up to four years and fined.

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