The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice in a plea seeking transfer of criminal investigation from Telangana State Police to the CBI (or any other central agency) in the commission of suicide of a BHEL employee due to sexual harassment at workplace.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar & Sanjiv Khanna while admitting the petition, issued notices to the Telangana Government, Telangana Police, CBI & BHEL and sought their replies. The case has been listed for further consideration after three weeks.
The petition has been filed by Mother of the 33-year old woman, an employee at the Public Sector Undertaking, BHEL in Telangana who was allegedly "sexually harassed, molested, stalked, mentally tortured and attempted to be Raped by her own supervisor and by her own office colleagues at BHEL, Hyderabad, which forced her to ultimately commit suicide on 17.10.2019, at a young age of 33 Years".
The plea contends that despite a suicide note detailing horrific details was retrieved after the commission of suicide, the Telangana Police has not yet arrested the main accused who have been named in the note. Further to this, the latest report on June 2 reveals that a "clean chit" has been given to the accused by the the Police.
"the deceased daughter of the Petitioner categorically stated that the Attempt to Rape and repeated Sexual Harassment by the main Accused Arther Kishore Kumar and other co-accused persons, had prompted her to commit suicide. However, despite this, the Telangana State Police has not yet arrested the main Accused, Arther Kishore Kumar, or any other accused persons and has not conducted their custodial interrogation" - Excerpt of Plea
Averments made out in the plea suggest that Telangana Police has a strong regional and linguistic bias against the deceased as she was a "Hindi-speaking native hailing from Madhya pradesh" as against the accused who are originally from Telangana. This apprehension, the plea reiterates in not "unfounded" but can be categorically depicted by a "plethora of incidents" which point to an "unfair and improper investigation" done by the Telangana Police.
The plea specifically states that the State police did not do anything during the crucial 40 day period from her death - the audio recording of the telephonic conversation between the deceased and her sibling wherein she stated that she was being sexually harassed by the accused, which would lead to the commission of her suicide was also not retrieved in English transcription.
"..Bhopal – Mummy, I have lost. I lived very strongly till now but today they have crossed all the limits. They have made my living difficult. If I continue in office in future too then either they will Rape me or they will Molest me." - Excerpt of suicide note dated October 16 2019 as reproduced in Plea
Further to this, the plea states that there has been an "attempt by the Telangana police to blame the unfortunate suicide of deceased to her alleged mental illness" where in fact, there had been no sign of any mental illness shown by her at the workplace.
"This shocking attitude of the local police of victim blaming and victim shaming, even before completion of the investigation, has given a firm and reasonable apprehension in the mind of the Petitioner that just and fair investigation of her daughter's death, will not be done by Telangana Police and that is why she is praying this Hon'ble Court with folded hands to transfer the instant investigation to CBI" - Excerpt of Plea
Calling for a thorough and in-depth investigation, the plea states that the case be handed over to the CBI so as to provide credibility and instil confidence in the investigation, besides ensuring complete justice in terms of proposition of law laid down by the Court.
The petition states,
"The unfortunate and sad suicide of the Petitioner's abovenamed young and energetic daughter, that too at the age of 33 Years, needs through investigation by an independent agencies, so as to avert repetition of any such incident with other young girls in other organization and also to send a strong message to the perpetrators of such heinous crime."
Additionally, the plea urges the Top Court to issue directions to BHEL to immediately initiate appropriate enquiry under applicable Departmental Riles and also under the provisions of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redresaal) Act, 2013 with respect to the accused persons.
The plea has been filed through Advocate Alok Alakh Srivastava.