Former ScoopWhoop anchor Samdish Bhatia has accused the Chief Executive Officer of the media website, Sattvik Mishra, of sexual assault. Bhatia claimed the incident happened in October 2021, and a complaint was filed by him with the internal complaints committee. On the other hand, Mishra has denied the accusations and alleged Bhatia fabricated the story to extort Rs 7 crores from him.
On learning about Mishra’s statement, Bhatia claimed he was offered money to swipe the complaint under the carpet.
Notably, Bhatia had resigned from the company in October last year from the post of consultant. He was also an anchor for ScoopWhoop’s Unscripted. He started his own YouTube channel ‘Unfiltered’ in December 2021. On January 14, 2022, Bhatia posted on Instagram in which he alleged he was assaulted while working at ScoopWhoop. At that time, Bhatia did not reveal exact details of what had happened. Later, on February 7, he put up another post and alleged he was sexually assaulted by 35-year-old Mishra.
Newslaundry accessed the complaint filed by Bhatia against Mishra. According to the complaint, Bhatia alleged Mishra made “unwanted, unsolicited, and uncalled [for] sexual advances and sexually predatory behaviour of criminal and civil consequences and is in violation of the law.”
The series of events
On October 7, 2021, Bhatia reportedly met Mishra at ScoopWhoop’s office to discuss the future of Unscripted. By that time, Bhatia had already left the company. Bhatia had asked for a 25 per cent equity stake in Unscripted but was offered only 7.5 per cent. The meeting that began at 5:30 PM was attended by creative director Avalok Langer as well. An hour and a half into the meeting, Mishra suggested continuing the meeting at a bar close to his house.
At around midnight, the bar staff asked the three to leave. Mishra offered to continue the meeting and drinks at his house. Bhatia said in his complaint that Langer left the house quickly. At that time, Mishra’s wife, Sriparna Tikekar, house-help, Mishra’s infant daughter, Mishra and Bhatia, were at the house. Tikekar did not join them. Bhatia noticed Mishra was drunk and was not able to control himself.
There was a moment Bhatia claimed Mishra came very close to him and leaned in, demanding a kiss. In his exact words, he said, “tujhe equity chaiye to ek chummi to de de’ [if you want equity, give me a kiss]”. When Bhatia stopped him, Mishra said, “Bhai, tu ab aisa karega mera saath’ [bro, is this how you’re going to treat me?]”.
Soon Langer called Bhatia and told him Tikekar was complaining that the two were making too much noise. Langer told Bhatia to leave to which he replied, “Avalok, I am trying to escape, I am trying to escape.”
Suddenly, Mishra removed his clothes and stood thereon in a t-shirt. Bhatia alleged his private parts were distinctly visible. He again demanded a kiss. Bhatia claimed he felt threatened. He requested Mishra to let him go. At that point, Tikekar called Bhatia and asked him to send the pet cat upstairs. Bhatia noticed she was peeking from the upstairs room and could easily see what her husband was doing, i.e. standing without his boxers. Bhatia accused Tikekar of being an accessory in the assault as she allegedly provided Mishra with an opportunity to assault Bhatia.
Somehow Bhatia managed to escape and informed Langer about the incident.
The Newslaundry report has mentioned that they contacted Arvind Jaiswal, another former ScoopWhoop employee who has joined Unfiltered. He said Bhatia called him on October 8 and informed him what had happened. He said he was unsure if Mishra asked for a kiss or a blowjob.
On October 9, Bhatia was called at ScoopWhoop’s office by Langar. After Bhatia again told him about the incident, Langar allegedly conveyed three messages to Bhatia. The first message was from Rishi Pratim Mukherjee, co-founder of ScoopWhoop. He was anxious if the incident went out, their deal with Good Glamm would be jeopardised.
The second message was from Tikekar, who was unhappy with Bhatia’s behaviour towards Mishra. Bhatia saw the message as a threat by Tikekar. The third message was from Mishra, who was also unhappy and was worried he could have met his father while leaving the house.
Apology by Mishra
On October 10, Mishra sent Bhatia an apology on WhatsApp. It read, “Samdish, I’m ashamed and disgusted at myself for my conduct, and I want to deeply apologise to you. It’s not an excuse, but I have been taking anti-depression and anti-anxiety pills for a while now, and when mixed with Alcohol, they took me to a very horrible space. I don’t recall most of that night, but after learning about it the next morning, including what I put Sriparna and…(his daughter) through, it’s been very difficult to sleep or eat since. I’m truly sorry. I don’t know who I was that night. I hope you will have it in your heart to forgive me, and if you don’t, I’ll understand. If there is something I can do to make you feel better or undo what I put you through, please let me know. I’m sorry, I really am. I wish nothing but the best for you. If it’s okay with you, I’ll like to meet and personally apologise before you leave for Jharkhand.”
Bhatia did not reply to the message.
Mishra’s side of the story
Mishra, who has already resigned from the CEO post at ScoopWhoop, presented a totally different story. Mishra confirmed he had offered Bhatia a 7.5 per cent stake in the new company and brought him over as the co-founder of Unscripted. The story till bar and then moving to home was similar. Mishra alleged after getting drunk, Bhatia got disruptive. He demanded a 25 per cent stake in the company and asked Mishra to fire multiple people from the team. Mishra claimed that Bhatia said, “If you don’t give me 25 per cent, Unscripted will be over. I am Unscripted.”
When they reached Mishra’s house, Samdish continued his rant and kept demanding a 25 per cent stake. His loud and abusive rant woke up Mishra’s wife. He tried to calm Bhatia down and begged him to leave the house. Scared of the situation, his wife locked herself in the room upstairs and called Avalok, Rishi and her brother to come and get Bhatia out of the house. After some time, Mishra claimed, “Something flipped in me. In my drunken state, hardly able to stand, I fumbled around and tried to push him out of my house. I got very aggressive (something I deeply regret). It got rough and ugly.”
A few days later, Bhatia’s lawyer contacted Mishra and demanded Rs 7 crores for the mental and physical trauma. If refused, he threatened to file a harassment and assault case against Mishra. Explaining the apology, Mishra said with an apology like the one he had sent to Bhatia, any story could be cooked up, and it would look genuine.
Mishra said, “His offer was simple: you pay me money, and I’ll take the complaint back and withdraw the case. In another meeting in November , he asked for 50 per cent equity in Unscripted, and ‘everything goes away’. Two weeks later, he met Rishi at Blue Tokai. He wanted the YouTube channel and said we can keep everything else, adding that he’ll end the matter.”
The final offer Bhatia made was Rs 3.5 crores, which was also rejected by Mishra. He questioned why Bhatia waited for over three months to post the cryptic message on Instagram.
The court case
After Bhatia made the post public, ScoopWhoop filed an injunction plea in Patiala House Court to restrict Bhatia from making any statement in public. The court refused the request for an injunction. The case is ongoing in court.
In November last year, a case was filed by Bhatia against Mishra and Sriparna Tikekar. He had alleged Mishra had violated sections 377 and 354A of the Indian Penal Code that deal with unnatural offences and sexual harassment. Tikekar was charged with abetment under sections 108 and 116.