"What faith will common man have in the police when senior officers are accused of misconduct?" this is a question that a Madras High Court judge posed while listening to a petition filed by a police officer accused of siding with an alleged sexual harasser. The alleged sexual harasser is a top police officer himself. The oral observations were made by Justice P Velmurugan while hearing a criminal revision petition filed by suspended Superintendent of Police D Kannan against the Villupuram court's refusal to discharge him in a case where he is accused of helping his senior officer, former DGP Rajesh Das, who in turn was accused of sexual harassment by a woman officer.
On October 20, two judges of the Madras High Court listened to three petitions filed by the officers, two by Rajesh Das and one by Kannan. Rajesh Das IPS, who was suspended after being accused of sexual harassment by a woman Superintendent of Police has asked the court to set aside the five member Vishakha panel constituted to probe the high profile case. The panel headed by the Additional Chief Secretary, Planning and Development, of Tamil Nadu, Jayashree Raghunandan was set up to investigate the complaint against Rajesh Das under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act.
The panel completed its investigation and reported to the government last April. A criminal memorandum has also been issued against the Special DGP on the basis of the Vishakha panel report. Following this, the accused officer moved the Madras HC seeking to cancel the proceedings of the panel.
Rajesh Das’s petition also seeks an order to conduct a proper investigation following natural justice under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act. The petition was heard by High court Judge Justice Saravanan, who adjourned the hearing to the following week and asked the state government to comment on the case. However the request to reshuffle the panel was not considered by the court. Rajesh Das wants trial to be shifted out of Villupuram
The former DGP then filed a revision petition in court arguing that the Chief Judicial Magistrate court in Villupuram, which is the trial court in the sexual harassment case, does not hold jurisdiction in the areas where the incident allegedly took place and asking for the trial court to be shifted.
“The petitioner submits that as per the complaint/FIR and final report, the alleged offence is said to have occurred between Namakkal and Ulundurpet and other alleged offences against accused 2 (Suspended SP D Kannan) was committed in Chengalpattu. As such there was no alleged offence committed within the jurisdiction of the learned chief judicial magistrate, hence a petition was filed before the magistrate to stay the proceedings and to refer the case to the file of the concerned magistrate court, having territorial jurisdiction,” the petition stated.
Rajesh Das’s petition also added that “surprisingly the respondent had filed the FIR as well as the final report on the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Villupuram even though the court does not have the jurisdiction to deal with the case as per law”.
The petition also added that “the chief judicial magistrate of Villupuram dismissed the petition to stay the hearing, without considering the contentions put forth on merit.” Justice P Velmurugan upon hearing the petition has reserved the order on the same for a later date.
SP D Kannan withdraws his plea
Suspended Superintendent of Police D Kannan withdrew his plea to discharge him from the case after Justice Velmurugan of the Madras HC stated that the court was not inclined to entertain his plea.
Kannan is the second accused in a case filed after a woman IPS officer complained that the senior police officer who was the then Chengalpattu Superintendent of Police intercepted her near the Paranur toll plaza, while she was on her way to Chennai to file a sexual harassment complaint against Rajesh Das to the DGP.
The complaint states that Kannan along with 10-15 other police officers had intercepted the survivor’s official vehicle at the toll plaza and forced her to speak to accused 1, Rajesh Das. The judge also ordered the trial court to complete the trial in the case within the next three months.