It has been two weeks since Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned as the Water Resources Minister after a sex tape, allegedly showing him promising a job in return of sex became public. But so far, the Bengaluru City Police is yet to register a First Information Report (FIR) against the minister even though a detailed complaint was lodged at the Cubbon Park Police Station. TNM spoke to lawyers and rights activists who said the very act of not registering the FIR against Jarkiholi and not probing him was illegal and in contravention of various High Court and Supreme Court orders.
A special investigation team led by senior IPS officer Soumendu Mukherjee has been formed on the request of Jarkiholi himself and an FIR too has been registered with regards to video leaks which brought the scandal to light. But the focus is entirely on where the leak of the video came from but nothing on the violations found in the tape. The complaint filed by social activist Dinesh Kallahall said Jarkiholi sought sexual favours from the aspirant in return for a government job. Videos of the woman and the minister were shared widely by television news channels in the state a day ahead of his resignation.
Mythreyi Krishnan, a Bengaluru-based lawyer and activist, said an FIR should have been registered at the outset in light of the serious allegations leveled against the recently resigned minister. “This is a cognizable offence and an FIR has to be registered before any other step. But no such step was taken. And now that videos of her pleading and stating that she is facing threats have to be taken very seriously,” she said.
She added, “What the courts have repeatedly told is that an FIR has to be registered by police after becoming aware of a commission of a cognizable offence. What police find during the probe is a different matter.”
The police should not be looking only at who leaked the video, she said. She alleged that going on after journalists who published the videos sends a wrong message to the public. “This signals that the government is looking to ensure how it can cover up the matter. This is not a way that a responsible government behaves,” she further said.
Similarly, Adarsh Iyer, activist of Janaadhikaara Sangharsha Parishath, said the state police is treating the complainant like an accused while the accused is treated as though he is the victim in connection with Dinesh Kallahalli being summoned by the police station. He said the police scrutiny and the threats allegedly against Dinesh might be the reason that he wanted to withdraw his complaint.
“As this initial complaint disclosed serious cognizable offences under section 376C (sexual intercourse by a person in authority) of Indian Penal Code and several other offences, the Inspector of Police of Cubbon Park PS ought to have registered an FIR before proceeding further for investigation. Instead, the entire police machinery was pressed into the action of searching the whereabouts of the victim, thus violating the Amended Criminal Law of 2013, famously known as Nirbhaya Act, by which the police were duty-bound to record and register the information of offence under few sections of IPC that relate to the offences against women,” he said.
He also cited several judgments of the Supreme Court and the Karnataka High Court which state that any investigation without registering an FIR is considered invalid. He termed the action of the police as a “total rewriting of the Code of Criminal Procedure.”
A senior IPS officer currently posted in Karnataka, on condition of anonymity, said it would have been easier to pin the ex-minister had the survivor approached the police with a written complaint. “But this does not stop the police from approaching her and get her complaint noted or take suo motu cognisance. I hope now some NGO comes forward to help her,” the officer said.
The officer termed the developments as “unfair”. “When the ex-minister is seen as a perpetrator at least ethically even if the act was consensual. I don’t understand why those who leaked the videos but that should not absolve the politician of his crime,” she further said.
Kathyayini Chamaraj, an activist and senior journalist, in Bengaluru said, "The non-registering of FIR shows that police is a puppet in the hands of the state government. Their Independence should have come through but it did not. Moreover, it's become a common practice of going after the victim instead of the perpetrator. What Jarkiholi did is a cognizable offence. He exploited his power."
TNM tried contacting several ministers of the Karnataka Government for answers about why no FIR has been registered against Jarkiholi so far but has gotten no response. This story will be updated if we hear from any of them.