Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., moving further in a matter wherein Court took suo motu cognizance with respect to the sexual harassment of a Lady IPS Officer by the Special DGP, expressed that:

“…the period during which a government servant is kept under compulsory wait is construed to be a ‘period spent on duty’.”

In regard to the matter wherein the Lady IPS Officer alleged that she was sexually harassed by the Special DGP, the Investigation Officer presented the Status Report before the Court.

From the Status report, it was seen that Section 41-A CrPC, summon was issued to accused 1, 2 and Superintendent of Police. Statements of the said persons have been recorded by the Investigation Officer.

In Court’s Order on 12-03-2021, it was clearly expressed that A-2 was placed under suspension considering the seriousness of the allegations made in the case after which the Court specifically posed why A-1 was not suspended till date to which it was brought to the Court’s notice that A1 had been kept under compulsory wait.

Compulsory Wait – A punishment?

Placing an officer under compulsory wait does not attach any stigma to it and such compulsory wait is resorted to only in cases where a government servant is not able to be accommodated in a suitable post or vacancy for extracting his services.

Further, it was added that, till such a suitable post or vacancy is identified, the government servant is kept under compulsory wait.

Government Servant who will be under compulsory wait will be entitled to all the service benefits including allowances during this period.

Hence, keeping an officer under compulsory wait will never amount to punishment.

In the present matter, A-1 is the Special DGP-Law and Order and when such a superior officer is kept on a mere compulsory wait and further interrogated by an officer of a subordinate rank, the same will psychologically intimidate the officer from carrying on the investigation in a free and fair means, which is why the suspension of A-1 assumes significance.

Bench added that the seriousness of the case can be assessed only on the prima facie materials that have been collected by the Investigation Officer, till now.

In light of the prima facie materials available, is it had been applied to a subordinate rank police officer, the officer would have been suspended in contemplation of initiation of disciplinary proceedings.

Free and Fair manner of investigation

Since this Court has taken upon itself to monitor the investigation, in this case, shows that it involves public interest, and also the dignity of the police force in the state of Tamil Nadu. Therefore, taking a positive step by suspending A-1, pending the investigation will bring in more confidence in the perception of the general public that the issue has been taken up with all seriousness and the investigation will progress in a free and fair manner.

In view of the sentiments expressed by the Court, State should take the necessary steps and report before the Court.

Matter is to be posted on 23-03-2021. [Government of India, In Re., 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1119, decided on 16-03-2021]

Advocates before the matter:

Mr N. Ramesh, Central Government Senior Counsel for R 1

Mr Jayaprakash Narayanan, State Government Pleader for R 2 & R 3

Mr M. Mohamed Muzammil, Government Advocate (Crl. Side) for R 4 & R 5

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Madras HC | Lady IPS Officer harassed by Special DGP. “Court is not going to be a mute spectator”: HC takes suo motu cognizance; decides to monitor investigation; issues directions

Madras HC | Media and Political Parties restrained from indulging in any discussions on alleged sexual harassment of Lady IPS Officer – NO parallel ‘Media Trial’ || Restraint to continue

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., while addressing the concern with respect to a very shocking incident wherein a Lady IPS officer was harassed by the Special DGP, expressed that:

“…effectiveness of a criminal prosecution can be ensured only when it is completed at the earliest possible time and there is a certainty of punishment for the accused person, if found guilty.”

The present writ petition was filed for the issuance of a writ of mandamus directing CB-CID to effectively conduct the investigation, duly monitored by the Court and for a further direction to submit the periodical status report.

It has been stated that the State Government has taken up the issue very seriously and that the investigation is proceeding on the right lines and that no stone will be left unturned. Summons to Accused 1 and 2 have been issued under Section 41-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Enquiry in the Internal Complaints Committee has also commenced parallelly and the developments were also reported before the Court.

Another development that was brought before the Court was that the Superintendent of Police, Chengalpet had already been suspended, pending the departmental inquiry.

High Court when passed the Orders on 01-03-2021, it had restrained the political parties and media from indulging in any discussion, touching upon the merits of the case, along with using or exchanging the names of the victim officer, the accused persons and the witnesses.

In view of the above restraint a representation was made before this Court to the effect that such protection need not be given to the accused persons and therefore, a request was made to modify the earlier direction and permit the use or exchange of name of the accused persons.

Bench while acknowledging the restraint shown by the political parties expressed that the present issue is not just confined to two individuals infact there is a larger issue that requires an effective solution and the interest of the entire police force in Tamil Nadu.

Reasoning for the restrain was that the Court did not want a parallel ‘Media Trial’, since the issue is quite sensitive and required to be handled with maturity.

State, as well as this Court, must maintain neutrality.

 Further, the High Court expressed that it is satisfied with the manner in which the investigation has progressed in this case and the Court hopes that it continues in the same spirit and the same gets completed as expeditiously as possible.

In view of the above discussion, Court held that the restraint imposed by the High Court shall continue. [Government of India, In Re.,  2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1118, decided on 12-03-2021]

Advocates who appeared before this Court:

For Respondents: Mr. N. Ramesh Central Government Senior Counsel for R 1

Mr. Jayaprakash Narayanan, State Government Pleader for R 2 & R 3

Mr. M. Mohamed Muzammil, Government Advocate (Crl. Side) for R 4 & R 5

Madras HC | Lady IPS Officer harassed by Special DGP. “Court is not going to be a mute spectator”: HC takes suo motu cognizance; decides to monitor investigation; issues directions

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., while noting a very shocking incident of a woman Indian Police Service cadre expressed that:

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.

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.

High Court addressed a very shocking incident that may impact the women officers belonging to the Tamil Nadu Police Force came to the attention of the Court.

Considering the monstrosity of the situation, High Court decided to take suo moto cognizance in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

Expressing deep concern, the High Court directed the Additional Public Prosecutor to take instructions and circulate all the relevant records, and the said records were circulated in a sealed cover.

What was noted on the perusal of the records?

It was seen that the victim officer who belonged to the Indian Police Service cadre had given a complaint to the Director-General of Police, Chennai. In view of the Bandobast Duty, the Special DGP had directed the victim officer to accompany him in his vehicle and she was told that she will be dropped at Perambalur.

During the above-stated travel, the Special DGP indulged in sexual harassment of the duty officer. 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. Enroute, the official car in which the victim officer was travelling caught up with her official car in which she proceeded towards Perambalur.

The official car on which the victim was travelling was intercepted at a toll gate by a large contingent of police headed by a Superintended of Police. Two police officers got down from their car and took away the car keys of the victims’ car. Thereafter, the victim officer was pressurised and forced to talk with the Special DGP who requested the victim not to proceed further.

Later the victim’s car was allowed to proceed towards Chennai, after which the victim submitted her complaint and DGP directed the DGP, CB-CID to take up the necessary investigation.

An FIR was registered in view of the above incident.

Court further noted that even a committee was constituted to enquire into the sexual harassment complaint.

High Court in view of the above expressed that:

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.

History and Struggle of Women

Bench elaborated that only in the last 25 years 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.

Bench sternly stated that the officers who did the act of intercepting the lady officer should be named.

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. 

Complaints against Sexual Harassment

Adding to the above, High Court expressed that there was a time when women 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.

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.

Free and Fair Investigation

A fair and proper investigation into crimes is one of the essentials of the criminal justice system and an integral facet of rule of law. In Pooja Pal v. Union of India, (2016) 3 SCC 135, the Supreme Court emphasized the requirement of a free and fair investigation as an essential concomitant of Article 21of the Constitution.

The accused person in the present case was a high-ranking police official of the very same State Police Force which was stated to be investigating the present matter as well.

Present case is an extraordinary case where this Court is required to step in to monitor the investigation to ensure that it progressed 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.

Bench referred to the Supreme Court decisions in Manohar Lal Sharma v. Principal Secy., and Babubhai Jamnadas Patel v. State of Gujarat, (2009) 9 SCC 610.

Court is required to step into a 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.

“…one of those extraordinary cases where sentinel must raise to the occasion to discharge its constitutional duty and to ensure that the pure streams of criminal justice are not polluted and corrupted by those in the corridors of power.”

Additional Advocate General further submitted 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.

Since this Court has taken a decision 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.

Bench noted that considering the sensitivity of the issue and the ensuing elections that are going to take place in the State, there is a high possibility of politicising this issue. Hence in order to restrict the same, High Court has issued interim 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; and
  • Any violation of the directions issued by this Court will be viewed very seriously and this Court may be forced to initiate contempt proceedings.

Bench has directed for this Order to be placed before the Chief Justice and obtain necessary order and directions.

[Case Details to be updated]