Shocked by the sexual harassment allegations levelled against a Special Director-General of Police (DGP) by an IPS officer, the Madras High Court on Monday took suo motu cognisance of the incident after reports surfaced of police officers having been dispatched to prevent the complainant from filing a complaint in the matter.
The accused officer had already been removed from the post of Special DGP (Law and Order) and had reportedly been put on “compulsory wait” after the allegations were made.
The Court decided to monitor the CBCID probe initiated in the matter, opining that this is an extraordinary case which warrants such monitoring. The order passed by Justice N Anand Venkatesh also contained the following directions:
- In order to ensure that there is a fair investigation in this case, all political parties are restrained from politicising and/or publicising the case.
- No statements must be given by such parties to the media, touching upon the merits of this case;
- The name of the victim officer, the accused person and the witnesses shall not be used or exchanged through any media, pending investigation in this case;
- Any violation of the Court’s direction may draw contempt of court proceedings.
Justice Venkatesh today expressed concern over how the complainant was intercepted while en route to file a complaint by a large contingent of policemen near a toll gate in Chengalpet, in an attempt to dissuade her from approaching the authorities. At this point of time, the victim is also stated to have been pressured to speak to the accused officer on call.
Terming the same “a very shocking incident that may impact the women officers belonging to the Tamil Nadu Police Force“, the Judge narrated the reported sequence of events as follows:
“A striking force vehicle was stationed right in front of the car belonging to the victim officer. Two named police officers in the rank of Inspector and SubInspector of Police, respectively got down from the striking force vehicle, came near the car and took away the car keys. When this was happening, the victim officer was present inside the car…. The case reached its crescendo when the lady officer was intercepted by a posse of policemen who had the audacity to stop the car and take away the car keys. It must be borne in mind that the officers who did it are named and they are in the ranks of Sub-Inspector and Inspector of Police, respectively and the officer who was sitting inside the car was a Superintendent of Police. This was exactly the incident which caught the attention of this Court. If IPS Cadre lady officers are going to face situations such as this, this Court thought that it is high time to take cognizance of the same to ensure that these instances do not happen in the future.“
The Court took note of the struggles faced by the victim in even getting the case registered, despite her being a high-ranking police officer. In this backdrop, the Court expressed concern over the plight of women who face sexual harassment while they are not in such positions of power.
“This Court shudders to think as to what would have happened if the victim was an officer belonging to a lower cadre as that of a Sub-Inspector or Constable of Police. Probably, it would have become impossible for such an officer to have even given a complaint in this case. If that is the position in which lady officers are placed, it is hard to think as to what will happen if such a sexual harassment had taken place on an ordinary lady with no background,” the Court said.
The Court has also made strong remarks against harassment of subordinate women in the workplace.
“There is a faulty gene in men which sometimes make them think that a woman is subordinate to them and that at times she can even be treated like a chattel. History, time and again shows that it is after a very long struggle, and only in the last 25 years that women have somehow managed to get to top levels at workplaces including public service. That by itself, does not place them at a secure position since they are not seen in their stature as an officer or professionalbut continue to be seen merely with patriarchal eyes… It is only in the recent past that women have started coming out even complaining against sexual harassment. There was a time where they used to swallow the bitter pill without raising a complaint about the same, since they feared consequences both in the workplace as well as the society,” it stated.
The Court was informed that an FIR has been registered in the matter on February 27, citing Sections 354A(2) (sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 506(1) (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, 1998.
Further, the State informed the Court that the investigation will be conducted by an officer in the rank of Superintendent of Police and that it will be monitored by the DGP, CB-CID. However, the Court opined that mere registration of the FIR itself would not take away the sordid state of affairs that is prevailing insofar as sexual harassment in workplaces are concerned.
Justice Venkatesh emphasised that the Court cannot remain a mute spectator when an officer, due to the power he veils thinks he can get away in the case.
“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. The more the power that is vested in a person by virtue of the position that he is holding, the more stringent must be the punishment if he indulges in sexual harassment. Whosoever may be the person involved and whatever position he holds should never come in the way of the law taking its own course, more particularly when it comes to cases of sexual harassment,” the order said.
In this backdrop, the Court decided to monitor the case, especially considering the “propensity of the accused person to mobilise the State Police Force to thwart the course of justice is amply demonstrated by the incident that took place at Paranur toll gate.”
The Court further directed that the order passed today be placed before the Chief Justice of the High Court to “obtain necessary orders and directions to list this matter and to proceed further with the same.”
As per reports, the accused DGP officer allegedly misbehaved with the complainant in his vehicle on February 21 and an attempt was made later to stop the complainant from lodging her complaint with the Home Secretary, Chennai.
It is reported that a large number of police officers allegedly attempted to intercept the vehicle of the complainant at Chengalpet on directions by the District Superintendent of Police, while she was en route to file the complaint after the incident.