A woman Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer from Tamil Nadu moved the Madras High Court (HC), in September 2023, citing inaction by the police and the Forest Department regarding a sexual harassment complaint that she had filed against three senior IFS officers in 2019. The woman alleged that she was threatened to withdraw her complaint and has further pursued a case against the Superintendent of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Trichy, for not urging the Police Department to file a First Information Report (FIR) to date. She has sought police protection after reported threats from the concerned officers.
In 2019, the woman submitted a sexual harassment complaint against N Satheesh, Chief Conservator of Forests, Trichy, for demanding sexual favours from her in 2017. The complaint was submitted to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. The complainant alleged that Satheesh had sought sexual favours from her and called her husband who was working as a Forest Range officer in Manapparai, several times.
The woman told TNM, “In February 2017, N Satheesh called my husband in the middle of the night and asked him to cooperate with him. Another officer named Senthil Kumar who at the time was the District Forest Officer, also joined in over a conference call and told my husband that he should comply with Satheesh’s demands. They said that in exchange, he would ensure that our transfers are taken care of, among others.”
The woman’s husband sought a transfer from Trichy and was granted the same, while she moved to Dehradun for academy training.
But, in 2018, the woman was again posted in Trichy for her ‘on the job’ training. “During my training, my superior officer Sujatha also took Satheesh’s side. She suggested I agree to his demands,” the woman said. “The constant harassment led me to submit a written complaint to the district Conservator of Forests, naming Satheesh, Sujatha and Senthil Kumar in 2019 and gave the call recordings as proof,” she told TNM.
An Internal Committee (IC) was formed and an inquiry was conducted. However, the IC concluded that the call recordings submitted by the complainant were not conclusive proof since Satheesh claimed that they were forged. The IC’s report said that “unravelling the full truth would require a full-scale forensic examination of all records and criminal investigation… it may be referred to suitable police/other authorities if suggested by the complainant.”
The woman has alleged inaction by her senior officer – the Conservator of Forests – since he did not hand over the case to the police department, despite her repeated requests. During this period of inaction in 2021, the woman also claimed that she was posted as a supervisory cadre in Kotagiri although as per her qualifications, she should only be posted as a management cadre in the Forest Department.
In July 2022, the woman filed a complaint with the Superintendent of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of Police of Trichy, but they allegedly didn’t respond. “They didn’t even file an FIR,” she said. “I now fear for the lives of my family and myself due to repeated threats from these officers. I have requested police protection till the court proceedings end,” she added.
TNM also reached out to Satheesh who denied the allegations. “It is not true. Even the IC said that the call recordings were inconclusive. I think the recordings were forged,” he said. He denied that he had threatened her and attempted to influence other officers in the Forest Department.