Chennai

Madras HC to monitor probe against former Special DGP

CHENNAI, 11/04/2008: Madras High Court buildings in Chennai on April 11, 2008. Photo: V. Ganesan  

In suo motu proceedings, the Madras High Court on Monday decided to monitor the investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against a former Special Director-General of Police (DGP) and restrained political parties from “politicising/publicising” the issue.

A woman Superintendent of Police had accused the top officer of sexually harassing her.

The court ordered that the parties must not issue any statement to the media touching upon the merits of the issue and warned that violation of the court order might lead to contempt proceedings.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh passed the orders on a suo motu writ petition taken up by him after expressing shock and deep anguish over the incident. The issue was so monstrous that it would have an impact on all women police officers in Tamil Nadu, he said.

Passing an elaborate interim order, he restrained the media from publishing the names of the complainant, the accused and witnesses in the case as there was an express bar on such publications under Section 16 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013.

On perusing the complaint, the judge found that the alleged harassment had taken place when both IPS officers were involved in providing security to Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on February 21.

Aggrieved over such treatment, the woman officer rushed towards Chennai to lodge a complaint with DGP (Law and Order) J.K. Tripathy. “The most shocking incident happened only at this stage. The official car in which the victim officer was travelling was intercepted at Paranur toll gate by a large contingent of police headed by one D. Kannan, Superintendent of Police, Chengalpattu district. A striking force vehicle was stationed right in front of the car belonging to the victim officer,” the judge said.

An inspector and a sub-inspector took away her car keys. Thereafter, she was pressured to talk (on phone) with the Special DGP.

He also recorded the submission of Additional Public Prosecutor M. Mohamed Riyaz that there was absolutely no delay in registering a FIR. After she lodged a complaint with the DGP (L&O) on February 26, it was forwarded to the DGP (CB-CID), and an FIR was filed the following day. It was booked by the north wing of the CB-CID in Villupuram against the ex-Special DGP and the Chengalpattu SP under Sections 354 (assaulting or using criminal force against a woman with the intent of outraging her modesty), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 506 part I (criminal intimidation) of Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act of 1998.

An Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) under the 2013 Act was also constituted.

Deciding to monitor the investigation, Justice Venkatesh wrote: “This is one of those extraordinary cases where the sentinel must rise to the occasion to discharge its constitutional duty and to ensure that pure streams of criminal justice are not polluted and corrupted by those in the corridors of power.”

He added, “If an officer, due to the power he wields, thinks that he can get over with his power and connections, from any act, this court is not going to be a mute spectator...[it will] ensure that the rule of law is preserved. Persons by virtue of the position they hold should not get the impression that they can do anything and finally escape from the situation with their power.”

According to the judge, when a person is vested with more power by virtue of position, “the more stringent must be the punishment if he indulges in sexual harassment.”

Recording the submission of Additional Advocate General S.R. Rajagopal that the CB-CID shall file periodical status reports before the court, the judge directed the High Court Registry to place the matter before Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee for listing the case for further hearing.

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