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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Assault case against TN Spl DGP: HC to monitor probe, places restrictions on media, politicians

In its order, the Madras High Court restrained political parties from politicising, publicising or issuing media statements about the case, and prevented the media from naming the victim and the accused officer.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
March 2, 2021 7:58:22 am
The alleged incident took place on February 22

The Madras High Court on Monday decided to monitor the progress of the probe against a Special Director General of Police (DGP) in Tamil Nadu, who was accused of sexual assault by an IPS officer. The court directed the investigating officer of the Tamil Nadu Crime Branch-CID to send it periodical reports on the probe.

In its order, the court restrained political parties from politicising, publicising or issuing media statements about the case, and prevented the media from naming the victim and the accused officer.

Observing that “there is a high possibility of politicising this issue,” the court said it wanted to impose restrictions on the media and politicians “considering the sensitivity of the issue and the ensuing elections that are going to take place in the state.”

“This has to be prevented without any further delay,” the court said.

“…the Special DGP is said to have indulged in sexual harassment of the lady officer. The complaint reads as if the officer was trying her best to wriggle out of the situation. The harassment suffered by the victim officer went to a point where she was left with no option but to hurriedly leave to Ulundurpet in the available car belonging to the Superintendent of Police, Kallakurichi. En route, the official car in which the victim officer was travelling caught up with her official car in which she proceeded towards Perambalur,” the court said.

The court also noted that when the victim officer decided to file a complaint and left for Chennai, “she started getting phone calls from the Special DGP and many other police officers which she decided not to attend.”

Quoting the victim’s complaint about her journey the next day to Chennai to file a formal complaint with the government, the court said: “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, Chengalpet district. 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 Sub-Inspector 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. Thereafter, the officer was pressured and forced to talk with the Special DGP who is said to have requested her not to proceed further with the complaint.”

The court noted that the “victim officer was not prepared to budge” and “ultimately, the SP, Chengalpet district received a call from somewhere and thereafter, the striking force vehicle was removed and the official car in which the victim officer was travelling was allowed to proceed towards Chennai.”

The FIR registered by CB-CID on the victim’s complaint had added Chengalpet SP Kannan IPS also in the list of accused. The main accused, the Special DGP, was removed from his post two days after the first complaint was filed by the victim.

“It took so much struggle for a police officer of that rank, even to give a complaint to the DGP, Chennai. 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 single Bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh said, “There is a faulty gene in men which sometimes makes 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.”

The court said it took suo moto cognisance of the case due to the incident in which the victim’s car was intercepted to prevent her trip to Chennai to file a complaint. “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 cognisance of the same to ensure that these instances do not happen in the future,” said Justice Venkatesh.

The court said if a senior officer thinks he can get away with any act due to the power he wields, “this Court is not going to be a mute spectator and this Court will step in and 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. 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,” the court said.

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