The Madras High Court on Monday took suo motu cognisance of a sexual harassment case against a top police officer, and said it will monitor the Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department inquiry ordered by the Tamil Nadu government, Bar and Bench reported.

An Indian Police Services officer had in February accused Special Director General of Police Rajesh Das of sexual harassment. The officer was put on “compulsory wait” after that. The police also filed a first information report against the officer.

The court expressed shock over reports of the woman officer being intercepted at a toll gate in Chengalpet town by a team of policemen, while she was going to file her complaint. “A striking force vehicle was stationed right in front of the car belonging to the victim officer,” Justice N Anand Venkatesh said, according to Bar and Bench. “Two named police officers in the rank of Inspector and sub-inspector of police got down from the striking force vehicle, came near the car and took away the car keys.”

The judge added: “When this was happening, the victim officer was present inside the car... The case reached its crescendo when the lady officer was intercepted by a posse of policemen who had the audacity to stop the car and take away the car keys.” He pointed out to the fact that these offices were junior to the woman officer.

The judge referred to the incident as “very shocking” and said that it will affect women police officers in Tamil Nadu. “This was exactly the incident which caught the attention of this Court,” he said. “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.”

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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, according to Bar and Bench. “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.”

The Madras High Court judge made strong remarks against those accused of sexual harassment. “There is a faulty gene in men which sometimes make them think that a woman is subordinate to them and that at times she can even be treated like a chattel,” the judge said. “History, time and again, shows that it is after a very long struggle, and only in the last 25 years that women have somehow managed to get to top levels at workplaces including public service.”

The judge said the court had to monitor the case, considering that the accused could use his position to disrupt the “course of justice”, according to Bar and Bench.

The court also issued a set of instructions to ensure fair investigation in the case. The judge said that the name of the complainant, the accused and witnesses in the case should not be revealed. He also forbade political parties from publicising the case. “Any violation of the court’s direction may draw contempt of court proceedings,” the judge added.

Meanwhile, the police officer denied the accusations against him. “I’m challenging the complaint; everything is hearsay,” he told Hindustan Times. “People who are politically motivated and professionally jealous are doing it. Why are people jumping the gun and conducting a media trial?”