Serious charges of sexual abuse have been levelled against a Mumbai-based drug rehabilitation specialist and psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Merchant, who is reportedly endorsed by Bollywood celebrities and his treatment sought by foreign nationals.
The Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) has received seven testimonies of sexual abuse, including rape of a minor, by Dr Yusuf Merchant. The complaint has been filed by People Against Rehab Abuse (PARA), which is a collective of lawyers, writers, journalists and doctors, who have questioned his qualifications as a psychiatrist and his financial dealings.
The complaints are of sexual assaults, ranging from inappropriate touch to rape, and physical violence. Dr Merchant has, however, denied all charges and has stated that it is a conspiracy to defame his image.
He told Mumbai Mirror, "These are all baseless allegations. I will respond in a court of law and I would be happy to throw open my records for anybody to introspect." Regarding the accusation of him raping a minor, he said, "Anybody can say anything. I hope the government has a thorough inquiry into this and I want to see who is trying to defame me."
The PARA complaint reads, "On therapeutic vacations abroad, Dr Merchant routinely sleeps in the same hotel room (and, in some cases, in the same bed) with his female patients. If anyone objects, they face complete ostracism within their support group, and in some cases, withdrawal of treatment by Dr Merchant."
It adds that "male and female patients, even minors are regularly brought to Dr Merchant's residence in south Mumbai for overnight stays. These overnight visits are unsupervised and take place exclusively when Dr Merchant's wife and daughter are travelling or are otherwise not present."
The complaint also asserted that the complaints have been verified to the extent possible and that they do not make such claims lightly, as they are aware of the damage to reputation of a respected professional it can cause.
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