The Madras High Court took suo moto cognisance of the incident where an IPS officer was threatened against filing sexual harassment complaint against Tamil Nadu’s Special Director General of Police (law and order). The court called it a “very shocking incident that may impact the women officers belonging to the Tamil Nadu Police Force”.
The incident that caught the court’s attention was that when the officer was on her way to Chennai headquarters, her vehicle was intercepted by a police officer at a toll plaza and directed other personnel to remove her car keys. He, allegedly, insisted that she should not file a complaint against Das, and said that she should talk to Das over the phone before proceeding. When she warned him that she would complain about this, he allegedly withdrew and let her pass.
The court pointed out, “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.”
The court added, “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.” While the court took note that FIR had been field in the matter and the officer who indulged in threatening the female officer was also named as accused, the court observed that mere registration of FIR does not take away the sordid state of affairs that is prevailing insofar as sexual harassment in workplaces are concerned.
The court observed that despite managing to hold senior positions in public service, that by itself does not place them at a secure position since they are not seen in their stature as officer but continue to be seen “with patriarchal eyes”.
The court observed that only recently women have started complaining about sexual harassment, since earlier they would remain silent as they would fear consequences. “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 opined.
Expressing dismay over the incident where the accused, of Sub-Inspector rank threatened and intercepted the vehicle of an SP level woman officer, the court stated that this is what caught the court’s attention and court wanted to ensure that such instances do not repeat. “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 said.
Wanting to apply the principle ‘justice must not only be done but seen to be done’, the court held that it is required to step in to monitor the investigation 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.
The Additional Advocate General submitted to the court that the State is privy to the seriousness of the allegations made in this case and therefore, the investigation will be carried out with all seriousness and it will be taken to its logical end. The AAG also submitted that since the court has decided to monitor the investigation periodical status reports will be filed by the Investigating Officer, and this Court will be updated on the progress of this investigation.
The court also pointed out that the impending elections should not lead to politicizing of the issue and raised concerns over disclosure of the identity of the woman officer. The court thus issued following directions:
1. Restraint to all political parties from politicising and/or publicising this case and no statements must be given by such parties in the media
2. The name of the victim officer, the accused person and the witnesses shall not be used
3. Any violation of the directions issued by this Court will be viewed very seriously and this Court may be forced to initiate contempt proceedings
The court has directed that the order be placed before the Chief Justice for necessary orders and for directions to list the matter.
The complete order may be read here: