Top
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
News Updates

Woman IPS Officer Allegedly Sexually Harassed & Stopped From Filing Complaint By DGP: Madras High Court Takes Cognizance; Will Monitor Investigation

Akshita Saxena
1 March 2021 4:01 PM GMT
Woman IPS Officer Allegedly Sexually Harassed & Stopped From Filing Complaint By DGP: Madras High Court Takes Cognizance; Will Monitor Investigation
x

The Madras High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of alleged sexual harassment of a IPS cadre woman officer by her senior, a Special DGP, and has decided to monitor investigation into the case itself. A Single Bench of Justice N. Anand Venkatesh minced no words in criticizing the alleged incident and also expressed displeasure at the manner in which the Special DGP allegedly used...

Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
599+GST
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?

The Madras High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of alleged sexual harassment of a IPS cadre woman officer by her senior, a Special DGP, and has decided to monitor investigation into the case itself.

A Single Bench of Justice N. Anand Venkatesh minced no words in criticizing the alleged incident and also expressed displeasure at the manner in which the Special DGP allegedly used his contacts and power to prevent the victim officer from even filing a complaint against him.

The Judge was concerned that if an officer holding a high rank in Indian Police Services can be harassed and be forced to not file a complaint, what must be the state of ordinary women who are victims of such acts.

The Single Bench said,

"The victim officer in this case is a high-ranked police officer of the State Police. It took so much of 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."

Background

The victim officer, belonging to the IPS cadre gave a complaint to the Director General of Police, Chennai, alleging that she was sexually harassed by the Special DGP in his official car while they were on their way to Ulundurpet District in connection to a bandobast duty on February 21, 2021.

She alleged that she somehow escaped from the scene and was driving her official car towards Chennai with the purpose of filing a complaint when she started getting phone calls from the Special DGP and many other police officers.

As she decided not to attend those calls, she was intercepted at Paranur toll gate by a large contingent of police headed by the Superintendent of Police, Chengalpet District.

As per the complaint, a striking force vehicle was stationed right in front of her car and two named police officers in the rank of Inspector and Sub-Inspector of Police, respectively got down from the striking force vehicle, came near her car and took away the car keys.

Thereafter, the victim was pressurised and forced to talk with the Special DGP who is said to have requested her not to proceed further with the complaint. However, when the victim did not budge, she was allowed to leave, subsequent to which she submitted a complaint to the DGP, Chennai.

Thereafter, a FIR was registered by CBCID against the Special DGP and Superintendent of Police, Chengalpet, for offences under Sections 354A(2), 341, 506(1) of IPC and Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, 1998.

A Committee has also been constituted to enquire into the sexual harassment complaint given by the victim officer.

Suo Moto Cognizance

Taking suo moto cognizance of this shocking and monstrous incident, the Single Judge expressed serious displeasure that first, a woman was subjected to such harassment, and thereafter, the alleged perpetrator and his subordinates even had the audacity to stop her from filing a complaint.

The Single Judge said,

"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."

Court pulls up Police officers for intercepting an officer senior to them

The Court noted that the victim officer was stopped by officers who are junior to her in rank and position, certainly depicting that the latter did not see the women as someone in power but as mere chattel.

It remarked,

"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 professional but continue to be seen merely with patriarchal eyes."

Court bashes Special DGP for abusing his seniority

The Judge then proceeded to criticize the acts of Special DGP in the following words:

"If an officer, due to the power he veils, thinks that he can get over with his power and connections, from any act, 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. 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."

Court decides to monitor investigation

The Court was informed that a FIR has been lodged in the matter and a Committee has been constituted to investigate the alleged incident.

However, the Bench was of the opinion that in the facts of the case, it may not be prudent to trust the investigation carried out by an institution, to which the accused belongs.

It observed,

"It is true that an FIR has now been registered by the CBCID and it is brought to the notice of this Court that the case is going to be investigated by an officer not less than the rank of the Superintendent of Police. The mere registration of an FIR by itself does not take away the sordid state of affairs that is prevailing insofar as sexual harassment in workplaces are concerned.

The victim was maneuvered and manhandled by a posse of police officers to somehow prevent her from lodging the complaint. The accused person in this case is a high-ranking police official of the very same State Police Force which is stated to be investigating this case also. 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."

In this backdrop, the Court was of the opinion that this is an extraordinary case where it is required to step into monitor the investigation, so as to ensure that it progresses on the right lines, and to retain public confidence in the investigation of the alleged crime by ringfencing the interference of the high and mighty in the corridors of power.

It said,

"this Court is required to step into monitor the investigation thereby, ensuring that the fundamental rights of the victim to a free and fair investigation is not reduced to an empty ritual. The role of the Constitutional Court in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution to zealously guard the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution is reinforced by a constitutional duty to act as a sentinel on the qui vive."

Further, considering the sensitivity of the issue and the ensuing elections that are going to take place in the State, the Court observed that there is a high possibility of politicising this issue.

To prevent the same, it has issued the following directions:

  • In order to ensure that there is a fair investigation in this case, there shall be a restraint to all political parties from politicising and/or publicising this case and no statements must be given by such parties in 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 directions issued by this Court will be viewed very seriously and this Court may be forced to initiate contempt proceedings.


Next Story
Share it