India-born yoga teacher appeals against 9 months jail for molesting student

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26-year-old yoga instructor Rakesh Kumar Prasad is appealing against his sentence at Singapore’s apex court. The India-born employee of the Real Yoga chain of fitness centres is appealing against the nine-months jail and $1000 fine he was sentenced with at the High Court, while prosecutors are still working to secure a heavier sentence for him.

The High Court had heard that Rakesh molested his 25-year-old student by cupping and pinching her breast while he was instructing her. Rakesh is also accused of trying to squeeze the victim’s breast by slipping his hands into her sports bra. The incident happened at the Real Yoga studio in Tampines Grande on 26 Apr 2015.

When the woman protested, Rakesh allegedly smiled and and suggested that her breasts were small. As the victim was leaving the yoga studio, Rakesh also grabbed the back of her neck, the woman told the Court.

CCTV footages were played in Court. The victim said that she hit her instructor’s hand and told him not to do it when he tried to molest her. He was undeterred and pinched her breast and told her to bend lower. He further threatened to pinch her even harder if she would not listen to him.

Rakesh’s lawyer repeatedly asked the victim why she did not seek help immediately  to which the victim replied with tears, that she did not know any studio staff, and added, “I was helpless, what did you expect me to do?”

After the alleged molestation, the victim demanded a refund of the one-year-membership fee she paid but Real Yoga refused. The victim asked for a refund of about $1,400 in unused fees as she stopped attending classes. The victim had to take the fitness studio to a Small Claims Tribunal to get her cash back. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the victim and ordered Real Yoga to refund her amount.

CCTV footages were played in Court. The victim said that she hit her instructor’s hand and told him not to do it when he tried to molest her. He was undeterred and pinched her breast and told her to bend lower. He further threatened to pinch her even harder if she would not listen to him.

Rakesh’s lawyer at the High Court, Genesis Shen, repeatedly asked the victim why she did not seek help immediately after being molested. He also asked her if her actions were consistent with “how a molest victim would react”.

His questions reduced the helpless woman to tears. She replied that she was alone, and did not know any studio staff.

After the alleged molestation, the victim demanded a refund of the one-year-membership fee she paid but Real Yoga refused. The victim asked for a refund of about $1,400 in unused fees as she stopped attending classes. The victim had to take the fitness studio to a Small Claims Tribunal to get her cash back. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the victim and ordered Real Yoga to refund her amount.

Rakesh was found guilty of one charge of outrage of modesty and one count of using criminal force in April this year.

Rakesh and his legal counsel appeared in court on Monday to contest the sentencing. Rakesh’s attorney Steven Lam said there was still reasonable doubt that Rakesh had molested his student and that there were inconsistencies in the victim’s account.

Asserting that CCTV footage could not confirm that Rakesh had groped the victim, Lam said that in the recordings, Rakesh’s hands appeared to face downwards, instead of upwards on her chest.

Claiming that his client was only helping the victim with her pose, Lam said that Rakesh was aware that there were security cameras and that there were others in the vicinity. He added: “the question is why would he want to do something so silly, bearing in mind that he is here on an employment pass?”

When Lam indicated that the victim only filed a police report when she did not receive the refund that she had wanted, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) James Chew slammed the allegation as “completely baseless and highly insulting to the victim”.

Pointing out that the victim attended classes regularly and had already pre-booked sessions prior to the incident, Chew added that the district judge viewed the CCTV recordings multiple times and correctly did not make any inference on the direction of Rakesh’s hands.

Calling for a higher sentence of at least 12 months’ jail and three strokes of the cane as he cited aggravating factors like the high degree of sexual exploitation, Chew noted that Rakesh violated the victim repeatedly and more violently each time even as the victim protested.

The DPP asserted that the yoga instructors acts were “exceptionally brazen, persistent and aggressive, and need to be deterred”.

The results of the hearing will be delivered on 12 Oct.

Alleged molester still working as yoga instructor in Real Yoga?