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Mumbai: The controversy surrounding layoffs at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (or, to be exact, the controversy surrounding rumours of large-scale layoffs at TCS) has taken a fresh twist with the company deciding to take the legal route.

On Wednesday, at around 8pm, TCS filed a First Information Report (FIR) against “unknown persons" at the Thane police station.

The FIR charges the “unknown persons" of cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and defamation under Sections 420, 467, 120A and 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In an emailed response, a TCS spokesperson said: “TCS has filed a FIR against “Unknown Persons" for defamatory and malicious mails received as well as social media posts. The matter is being investigated by law enforcement agencies. We have no further comments to make."

An FIR against “unknown persons" is filed when it is not clear who the perpetrators of the illegal act are.

According to two company officials with direct knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the last straw was when some people started reaching out to clients of TCS pestering them not to do business with the company.

“We’ve been monitoring the situation for a while," said one of the people cited above. “But then our clients started getting these emails asking them to stop working with TCS. That is when we decided that we can’t be keeping quiet anymore." The emails were sent mostly to TCS’s clients in the banking and financial services business.

Soon after, TCS filed a complaint with the Thane cybercrime investigation cell. A complaint has been registered with the agency for cognizable offence under Information Technology (IT) Act Section 66 A, C and D and of cheating and forgery under IPC, according to a senior police inspector of Thane cybercell.

TCS has come under some rapid legal fire from organizations such as FITE (Forum for IT Employees).

Over the last couple of months, FITE has filed several cases against the company in the Madras high court, Bombay high court and the Hyderabad high court. While the Bombay High Court has dismissed the case, other cases are still pending.

Parimala Panchatchacharam, co-ordinator at FITE, denies any knowledge of the TCS FIR or that FITE is in any way involved with writing to clients of TCS. “We are against TCS layoffs," she says. “Not against TCS’s business."

A 16 February post by a user on FITE’s ‘We Are Against TCS LayOff’ Facebook page indicates that FITE has been working on a customer email campaign (mintne.ws/1Bqbj9G).

The post asks forum members to share email addresses of top Tata officials, so that they can be marked on all emails sent out to the customers.

Mint also reached out to Rahul Kamle, the Mumbai representative of FITE. He denied any knowledge of the matter. And then he denied that he was ever associated with FITE.

“I am not a representative of FITE," he said. “I am not aware of this. I am a retrenched employee of TCS but I need to check with them why they have put my name there (FITE’s We Are Against TCS Layoff Facebook page)."

The TCS layoffs issue has been hanging fire for a while now.

It first came to light on 11 December last year at a press conference in Bengaluru when Ajoy Mukherjee, executive vice-president and global head (human resources) at TCS, said that the company was doing a restructuring “for senior and mid-level executives who the company believes are non-performers". The statement made headlines. And in a rather interesting twist, it was picked up by the Young Tamil Nadu Movement (YTNM), a union comprised of mainly IT employees in Chennai. In it, they found a cause to fight for the rights of TCS employees. Along the way, a number of 25,000 was assigned to the layoffs. On 15 January, TCS announced that the number of employees sacked by the company was 2,574 with only 981 in India.

Throughout December last year and early January, three members of YTNM, who are also the coordinators of FITE, went after the company. Protests, creative pamphlets, press conferences, a fact-finding committee, newspaper articles, aggressive social media campaigns on Facebook and Twitter, legal cases—TCS came under a lot of fire. So much so that on 15 January, chief executive N. Chandrasekaran admitted that the company might have missed a trick or two. “This whole exercise this time has created a lot of noise. That is something for us to think about," he said. “It is something for us to think about as there is a learning for us. We have to understand how this social media works when somebody puts up a message, that’s some action point we should take as we go forward."​

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