The Delhi HC has issued summon on Laptop and Computing major Hewlett Packard (HP) India over whistleblower charges of routing kickbacks to government officials for securing deals and for tweaking tenders in the company's favour. The Delhi HC has also issued summons on HP India's California based parent HP Inc, as well HP India's Former MD Sumeer Chandra.
The Delhi HC has asked HP India and HP Inc to respond to charges red-flagged in the plaint.
The HC was hearing a plaint by Manoj Grover, a former employee of HP India. In the plaint, it has been alleged that millions of dollars of kickbacks flowed from HP India to government officials for skewing tenders and contracts in HP's favour. In the plaint, there is a direct reference to at least three instances where money flowed to government officials to allow HP India exclusive, or preferred, access to government tenders.
The plaint suggests that the government, being the largest customer of HP, often leads to the company employing creative means to make unethical payments to government officials.
Importantly, the plaint also suggests that the top management was in the know of things, and maintained records of kickback payments being made.
Manoj Grover claims in the plaint that he red-flagged the issue, first to the local management, and then to the Compliance Team of the California based parent company. He argues that far from responding to the issues, the company indulged in retaliatory action, causing harassment and ultimately concluding in June of 2020, with the termination of his employment.
His plaint also points out that HP sought to resolve the issue, through settlement talks. The plaint argues that the offer made by HP was "wholly inadequate". Manoj Grover, through this plaint, is seeking damages of Rs 40 crore from HP.
Tishampati Sen, Advocate for Manoj Grover said, "In the suit filed against the alleged wrongful termination, the Delhi High Court was pleased to issue summons on all the Defendants, including HP India Sales Pvt. Ltd., and HP Inc. and the defendants have been asked to file their Written Statements (reply) within a prescribed time period. The Court has also been pleased to issue notice on the Application moved by Manoj Grover, seeking interim relief, where also HP India and HP Inc, have been asked to respond within the specified time."
CNBC-TV18 reached out to HP India. The company released a comment, saying, "HP has a strict anti-retaliation policy, which includes a prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting misconduct. HP requires its employees, partners and suppliers to adhere to the highest standards of integrity and ethical business conduct. We conduct reviews as needed and take appropriate actions to ensure compliance with our standards, but we don’t comment on specific situations."
The Delhi HC will now hear the case on September 21.