Complete trial against special DGP, SP before Dec. 20: HC

A view of the Madras High Court buildings in Chennai.   | Photo Credit: V. Ganesan

The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Villupuram chief judicial magistrate (CJM) to conclude by December 20 the trial against Special Director General of Police Rajesh Das (now under suspension) on charges of sexually harassing a woman Superintendent of Police in February this year and also against Superintendent of Police D. Kannan (since suspended) on the charge of waylaying the victim officer when she was on her way to lodge a complaint.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh observed that the effectiveness of the criminal justice system would always depend upon completion of trial proceedings at the earliest and the certainty of the accused being either punished or acquitted. Therefore, he ordered conduct of trial in the sexual harassment case on a day-to-day basis. The CJM was directed to frame charges against the accused and hold the proceedings without granting unnecessary adjournments.

The judge also made it clear that it would be the duty of the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID), which filed a chargesheet against the suspended Special DGP and the male SP on July 29, to summon the witnesses without causing any undue delay.

“This court must hasten to add that the orders passed at various stages in this suo motu writ petition will not have any bearing on the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Villupuram, while deciding the case on its own merits and in accordance with law. The prima facie findings that were given by this court in the writ petition will not bind the trial court. This important aspect must be kept in mind by the learned CJM while proceeding further with the case,” the judge said.

The sexual harassment incident reportedly took place on February 21 when the suspended Special DGP and the victim were providing security cover for the then Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami during his election campaign in Karur, Namakkal, Perambalur and Villupuram districts. Since it involved top officials and could have an effect on the morale of the entire police force, the judge had taken suo motu notice of it on March 1 to ensure a free and fair investigation.

Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram and State Public Prosecutor Hasan Mohammed Jinnah on Monday told the court that the CB-CID had examined 122 witnesses, seized 72 documents, subjected many mobile phones to forensic examination, scrutinised call records and collected CCTV footage from various places before deciding to file a chargesheet.

On July 6, the DGP, CB-CID,wrote to the Home Secretary recommending departmental action against the duo and also four other IPS officers in connection with the issue. The communication also sought government sanction to initiate criminal prosecution against the two officials alone and accordingly, the sanction was granted on July 27. Within two days thereafter, the investigating officer filed a chargesheet against both the officers before the CJM, Villupuram.

In the final report, the suspended special DGP had been charged under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force against woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354A(2) (sexual harassment), 341 (wrongful restraint), 506(1) (criminal intimidation) read with 109 (abetment) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act of 1998. The suspended male SP had been charged under Sections 341 and 506(1) of the IPC, the court was informed.

Appreciating the investigating officer for filing the chargesheet in five months despite COVID-19 and lockdown, Justice Venkatesh directed the High Court Registry to list the suo motu writ petition on December 23. If the CJM could not complete the trial by then, a memo could be filed seeking more time, he added.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 12:59:14 PM |

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