Ex-CEO files FIR against Co-founder and Ex-COO

  • Posted on May 6, 2024

By Anuradha Gandhi and Isha Sharma


In a shocking development, the co-founder and ex-CEO of a well-known technology and fashion e-commerce startup had thrust the company back into the spotlight with explosive allegations against her fellow co-founder, and the former Chief Operating Officer (COO), referring them as “sneaky and shady.”

In a dramatic turn of events, the ex-CEO (“complainant”) had lodged a First Information Report (FIR) on April 23, 2024 accusing the former co-founder and the former COO of a range of offences, including cheating, fraud, criminal intimidation, and sexual harassment. [1]

The FIR, registered under Sections 354(A) and 354(D) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 pertaining to sexual harassment and stalking, respectively, underscores the seriousness of the allegations, with both sections carrying non-billable charges and potential imprisonment terms of up to five years. Despite the gravity of the accusations, the Mumbai police are yet to summon the accused for questioning, leaving the case shrouded in uncertainty.


2015 The e-commerce enterprise was founded in 2015.
2019 The company was valuated at $1 billion dollars[2].
April, 2022 The former CEO and co-founder, was suspended on account on financial irregularities.[3]
May 4, 2022 The company appoints an independent firm to probe into allegations of sexual harassment made by the former CEO[4]
May 20, 2022 The former CEO was dismissed from her leadership position, following allegations of financial impropriety.
June, 2022 The former CEO resigned from her position as board director.
April, 2024 FIR filed by the former CEO against the co-founder and the former COO.

The Company, an e-commerce enterprise specializing in fashion technology solutions for apparel merchant and factories, was founded in 2015. Originally conceived as a Southeast Asia-centric online platform, the company had evolved into a comprehensive global supply chain for the apparel industry, offering a spectrum of services including financing and other auxiliary support. [5]

The downfall of company, once hailed as a shining star in the startup world, has been nothing short of a spectacle. The complainant’s ousting as CEO in 2022 amidst allegations of financial irregularities marked the beginning of the company’s rapid decline, culminating in its entry into liquidation in January 2023. The alleged discrepancies in accounting were unearthed after a due diligence process for a new funding round, through which the company was looking to raise $150-200 million at a valuation of $1.2 billion dollars.[6]

The complainant had disputed the allegations of accounting discrepancies and contested her suspension, calling the company’s action a “witch hunt” that was triggered by harassment complaints she raised against an investor in the company. [7]

The company had said, “Following an investigation led by an independent forensics firm that was commissioned to look into complaints of serious financial irregularities, the company has decided to terminate her employment with cause, and reserves the right to pursue appropriate legal action.”


The allegations paint a damning picture of the two men’s alleged misconduct, encompassing the following:

  • Harassment and sexual misconduct:
    The complainant claimed that she had been subjected to harassment, including lewd messages and online threats. Furthermore, the FIR accuses the former CEO of inappropriate behavior during a private meeting, adding another layer of complexity to the already convoluted case.
    The FIR mention the act of misconduct by the two alleged respectively, seeking sexual favours in March 2021.
    “The two used to call at odd hours of night and threatened me that they would sack me if I don’t extend sexual favours to them and meet them in a hotel room. This caused me a lot of mental agony and stress,” the FIR reviewed by ET reads.[8]
  • Financial Wrongdoing:
    The Times of India report states that in her six-page complaint, she states that the accused misled her and the company’s investors in an attempt to gain financial advantages and coerced her into relinquishing her shares and business under false pretenses. [9]
    As the chief operating officer, engaged in misconduct by false attributing loss-making deals to me and extending trade credit to various parties in my name. He then used those deals to threaten me by falsely implicating me to investors, despite the fact that all operational dealings were conducted by him in my previous company. I have been threatened, deceived and had errors attributed to me in order for Vaidya to fraudulently acquire my shares, which are valued at multiple crores, the FIR adds.[10]
  • Data Manipulation:
    The complainant further claimed that the accused withheld crucial company data, hindering informed decision-making.

Response to the Allegations: “Baseless” and “Retaliatory”

In response, the former co-founder (Accused 1) had vehemently denied all allegations, labelling them as “baseless” and “retaliatory”. He contends that a prior investigation had uncovered misconduct by the accuser, leading to her termination. His statement portrays him as a steadfast advocate for integrity and professionalism, implying that the accusations are merely an attempt at revenge.

“Allegations against me are completely baseless, untrue, and malicious. A thorough investigation has already proven her wrongdoing based on which she was terminated from the company. This appears to be nothing but retaliatory behaviour. Throughout my tenure, I upheld my integrity by aiding the board’s inquiry into CEO’s misconduct while fostering professional relationships and striving to build ethical products,”

he said in a statement on April 24, 2024 as per the report. [11]
The former COO (Accused 2) also denied the allegations and noted, “This seems like nothing but a clear afterthought done with a malicious intention to harm my reputation and harass me.”[12]


On the apparent delay in filing the FIR, the complainant claimed that although she was terminated from her position in May 2022, she continued to remain a board director, but voluntarily resigned from her directorship at the holding company and its subsidiaries in June of the same year. She cited “opacity of information” as a board member and shareholder as the primary reason for her resignation[13]. Subsequently, she embarked on a new professional endeavor that demanded her full attention, leaving her unable to secure leave from work to pursue filing a complaint.
This apparent delay from 2022 to 2024, may bring to mind certain questions about the admissibility of the complaint.
According to Section 468 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, ‘Bar to taking cognizance after lapse of the period of limitation’ is laid out. It explicitly mentions that no Court shall take cognizance of an offence after the expiry of the period of limitation.
The periods in these cases as specified in subsection 2, are,

  • six months, if the offence is punishable with fine only;
  • one year, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year; and
  • three years, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years.[14]

However, in cases where the delay is explained to the Court or an extension to the period of limitation would be in the interest of justice, the Court may, in its wisdom extend the period and accordingly take cognizance. It is also to be noted that there is no limitation period for offence punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding 3 years. [15]
In the present case, allegations have been made under sections 354 (A) and 354 (D) pertaining to sexual harassment and stalking, respectively, of the Indian Penal Code, and the punishment for the same are imprisonment extendable up to 5 years and hence fall under the limitation period, and are admissible therein.

A Possible POSH Case?

The second legal question that is to be addressed is if the present complaint could be admissible under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (also known as POSH Act).

The complaint entails incidents of workplace harassment and by the very nature of the same would be admissible under the POSH Act, as the ex-CEO, would fall under the definition of “aggrieved woman”, as she was allegedly subjected to both Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. However, the Internal Committee would not be able to take up a complaint against the employer himself, but for this purpose, the aggrieved woman has the right to opt for filing a complaint before the Local Committee.

Another ambiguity that would arise in the present case, if admissible, is with regard to limitation of the time period of filing a complaint under POSH.

Section 9 of the POSH Act, specifies the time period of filing a complaint of sexual harassment. It provides that the complaint is to be made within a period of three months from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three months from the date of last incident.

Provided, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee can extend the time limit not exceeding three months, if it is satisfied that there were circumstances that prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the said period. But, even with the said extension, the complaint would have to be filed within 6 months, a time period that was well exceeded in the present case.

However, while there exists a designated timeframe for filing complaints under POSH Act, there have been instances where the court had acknowledged complaints filed beyond this period. A notable case is of X vs District Magistrate (South) and Another, where the Hon’ble Delhi High Court held that even if a complaint exceeds the limitation period, the Local Committee should still conduct an inquiry and issue a reasoned order. [16]

But the Court had refrained from speaking on the merits of the issue of limitation, making the reasoning behind the judgement unclear. The issue of limitation in POSH Act therefore, remains a lacuna in the law, a grey area that is yet to be dealt with comprehensively.

The third conundrum would be if the complaint from an ex-employee be admissible under the POSH Act. In this regard, reliance is to be placed on the Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson case, where a complaint of sexual harassment by an ex-employee was admitted by the Supreme Court of the United States. It was further held that a claim of “hostile environment” sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that is actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. [17]

As the legal battle unfolds and the truth remains elusive, the company serves as a cautionary tale of the perils of unchecked power dynamics and corporate governance failures within the startup ecosystem. With reputations tarnished, the resolution of this high-profile case will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of those involved. Stakeholders will be closely watching to see how justice is served in this troubling case.

Ahana Bag, Assessment Intern at S.S. Rana & Co. has assisted in the research of this Article.

[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/singapores-zilingo-to-liquidate-after-crisis-at-fashion-startup/articleshow/97174998.cms?from=mdr

[2] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/singapores-zilingo-is-said-to-suspend-ceo-ankiti-bose-amid-investigation/articleshow/90797062.cms?from=mdr

[3] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/zilingo-appoints-deloitte-to-probe-harassment-complaints/articleshow/91324923.cms?from=mdr

[4] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/technology/tech-news/zilingos-ankiti-bose-alleges-sexual-harassment-against-co-founder-inappropriate-behavior-and-more-that-fir-claims/articleshow/109572800.cms

[5] https://www.hindustantimes.com/business/meet-ankiti-bose-the-suspended-ceo-of-singapore-based-zilingo-101649899737716.html

[6] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/singapores-zilingo-is-said-to-suspend-ceo-ankiti-bose-amid-investigation/articleshow/90797062.cms?from=mdr

[7] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/singapores-zilingo-is-said-to-suspend-ceo-ankiti-bose-amid-investigation/articleshow/90797062.cms?from=mdr

[8] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/zilingo-ex-ceo-ankiti-bose-files-sexual-harassment-case-against-cofounder-ex-coo/articleshow/109565206.cms?from=mdr

[9] https://www.businesstoday.in/latest/corporate/story/zilingos-ankiti-bose-files-fir-against-co-founder-ex-coo-over-fraud-sexual-harassment-426769-2024-04-24

[10] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/zilingo-ex-ceo-ankiti-bose-files-sexual-harassment-case-against-cofounder-ex-coo/articleshow/109565206.cms?from=mdr

[11] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/technology/tech-news/zilingos-ankiti-bose-alleges-sexual-harassment-against-co-founder-inappropriate-behavior-and-more-that-fir-claims/articleshow/109572800.cms

[12] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/zilingo-ex-ceo-ankiti-bose-files-sexual-harassment-case-against-cofounder-ex-coo/articleshow/109565206.cms?from=mdr

[13] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/startups/singapores-zilingo-is-said-to-suspend-ceo-ankiti-bose-amid-investigation/articleshow/90797062.cms?from=mdr

[14] Section 468 of the CrPC.

[15] https://www.azbpartners.com/bank/limitation-period-in-criminal-cases-when-are-you-barred-by-limitation/

[16] https://poshatwork.com/delhi-high-court-on-filing-a-complaint-after-the-prescribed-period-of-limitation/

[17] https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/ll/usrep/usrep477/usrep477057/usrep477057.pdf