The Madras High Court on Monday directed a lower court to finish by December 20 the trial against suspended Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) Rajesh Das on charges of sexually harassing a woman Indian Police Service officer in Tamil Nadu, reported Live Law.
A bench of Justice N Anand Venkatesh directed the Villupuram chief judicial magistrate to conduct the proceedings without any unnecessary adjournments. He also told the police the summon the witnesses in the case without any delay.
The court said that the witnesses should be cross-examined on the same day they are questioned unless there are reasons beyond control. “The effectiveness of the criminal justice system largely depends upon the completion of the proceedings at the earliest and a certainty of either punishment or acquittal, as the case may be, of the accused persons,” Justice Venkatesh said, according to The Times of India.
The alleged sexual harassment took place on February 22. The woman police officer had accused Das of behaving inappropriately with her in his vehicle. The incident reportedly took place while the woman was on duty during former Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami’s visit to some districts in central Tamil Nadu.
After the complaint, Das was excluded from meetings related to the security cover for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Coimbatore on February 25. He was also put on “compulsory waiting”, which meant that Das was not given any assignments for a specific time period.
The allegations came to light after the Tamil Nadu government’s home department on February 24 set up a six-member inquiry committee to look into the complaint. In March, the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department took over the investigation.
The agency filed a chargesheet against Das on July 29. It had also recommended initiating action against the then inspector general of the central zone, the former deputy inspector general of Tiruchi Range, the then automation superintendent, and the former deputy commissioner, headquarters.
These police officers have been accused of either trying to coerce the woman to compromise or for asking her not to complain to superior officials about the incident.
The FIR had named Das and Chengalpattu Superintendent of Police D Kannan, who was accused of preventing the woman from filing an official complaint. Both of them have booked under Section 354 (outraging modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code along with sections 3 and 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act.
The Madras High Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the matter on March 1. The court said it “shuddered” to think what would haven happened if the complainant was an officer of a lower rank.
“Probably, it would have become impossible for such an officer to have even given a complaint in this case,” it said. “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.”