Tamil Nadu

SC stays transfer of sexual harassment probe to Telangana

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HC’s jurisdiction to transfer criminal proceedings questioned

The Supreme Court has stayed the operation of an order passed by the Madras High Court on August 28, transferring the probe into a sexual harassment complaint lodged by a woman Superintendent of Police against her superior officer in the rank of Inspector General of Police to Telangana.

Individual appeals

Justices Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy granted the interim relief on individual appeals preferred by the Tamil Nadu government as well as the Inspector General of Police challenging the transfer order passed by a Division Bench of Justices Vineet Kothari, now Acting Chief Justice of Madras High Court, and C. V. Karthikeyan.

The appellants’ counsel Balaji Srinivasan, M. Yogesh Kanna and Abita Banu primarily questioned the jurisdiction of Madras High Court to transfer the criminal proceedings as well as the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) inquiry, under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013 from one State to another.

They contended that the power to transfer inquiries from one State to another rested only with the Supreme Court and not High Courts. Finding some force in their submissions, the Supreme Court ordered notice, returnable by October 14, to the victim woman police officer “on the point of jurisdiction of the High Court to transfer the proceedings of inquiry to another State.”

HC order

In its August 28 order, the High Court ordered transfer of the probe to ensure a fair and independent inquiry.

“We request/direct the Chief Secretary of the State of Telangana as well as the Director General of Police of State of Telangana to under take necessary steps for constitution of a separate ICC at Hyderabad headed by a senior lady officer,” the court had said.

It also ordered an independent inquiry into the criminal complaint lodged by the victim and directed the officials in Telangana to submit their reports before the Madras High Court within six months. “We make it clear that our aforesaid order of transfer shall in no way be treated as any adverse expression by this court on the image of the authorities of Tamil Nadu,” the Bench clarified.

Severe objections

The transfer order was passed despite severe objections raised by Advocate General Vijay Narayan who said the State government was willing to appoint even a retired woman judge of the Madras High court as the chairperson of the ICC if the victim was of the view that no police officer or IAS officer in the State would be able to adjudicate the issue fairly.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 4:47:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sc-stays-transfer-of-sexual-harassment-probe-to-telangana/article29544996.ece

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