The president of the organization that runs Abbotsford’s only Hindu temple has resigned after being charged with sexual assault while working in his job as a taxi driver.
Court records indicate that taxi driver Deepak Sharma, 60, of Abbotsford was charged in relation to an alleged incident on Jan. 2 in West Vancouver involving a passenger.
Const. Jeff Palmer, spokesperson for the West Vancouver Police Department (WVPD), confirmed the charge and said the alleged victim came forward in the early morning of Jan. 2.
She stated that she had been in Sharma’s taxi shortly before 1 a.m. and was waiting for a friend in the 100 block of Whonoak Road in West Vancouver, Palmer said.
He said the woman alleged that she was grabbed in the crotch and her hand was then forcibly placed in the driver’s genital area, which had been exposed through an open zipper.
Palmer said the woman and her friend reported the alleged incident to police after safely returning home.
The incident was then investigated, and Sharma was arrested on Jan. 17 and subsequently charged with sexual assault.
He made his first appearance in North Vancouver provincial court on Wednesday.
Palmer said Sharma surrendered his West Vancouver taxi permit after receiving a revocation letter.
Sharma was the president of the Fraser Valley Hindu Cultural Society, which runs the Hindu temple on Walmsley Avenue in west Abbotsford.
When Black Press Media contacted the society for comment on Thursday, board members were unaware that Sharma had been charged.
Vice-president Ashok Sharma (no relation), said that an emergency meeting was called that evening, with Deepak in attendance.
“He told us he would resign,” Ashok said.
He said Deepak confirmed the charge, but denied that he had committed any offence. Ashok said the board was shocked to hear about the accusation.
“We couldn’t believe it because he’s a good guy … We have never noticed anything like that.”
He said Deepak served a previous two-year term as president about six years ago.
This is not the first time that an individual involved with the Hindu temple has been linked to sexual improprieties.
Karam Vir, a former priest at the temple, was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison in 2013 for sexual offences involving two teenage girls.
Vir had been in Canada on a work visa and was deported back to India after completing his sentence in 2015.