Suspended officer files plea on harassment charge; HC refuses to take his defence into consideration
The Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to take into consideration an impleading petition filed by a suspended Special Director-General of Police (DGP) explaining his stand on the sexual harassment charge levelled against him by a woman Superintendent of Police (SP).
The court held that the accused would be entitled to defence only before the trial court and not before the High Court, which had decided to do nothing more than monitor the probe.
Justice N. Anand Venkatesh wrote, “It must be mentioned here that the accused person may not have any locus standi to insist upon this court to take into consideration, during the course of the investigation, his stand in the case. During this period, this court is not deciding on the merits of the case. It is only monitoring the progress made in the investigation. The defence of the accused comes into play only during the course of trial in criminal case.”
When advocate Abdul Saleem, representing the suspended Special DGP, claimed that the prosecution was attended with mala fides and that there was a larger conspiracy behind the allegations levelled against his client, the judge said: “If this court is to give any finding based on the stand taken by the accused person during the course of the investigation, it will directly interfere with the exclusive domain of the investigating officer [IO].”
Earlier, special senior counsel A.L. Somayaji, representing the State government, submitted before the court a government order (G.O.) issued on March 18 placing the accused on suspension with immediate effect. After taking the G.O. on file, the judge said the suspension would not only provide confidence to the IO, in the rank of SP, to investigate the case without intimidation, but also reinforce confidence in the minds of the general public, who had been keenly following the issue.
The judge also recorded the submission of Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) M. Mohamed Riyaz that 87 witnesses had been examined so far and their statements recorded in connection with the criminal case booked against the suspended Special DGP as well as of the male SP, who had reportedly waylaid the victim police officer at a toll plaza when she was on the way to lodge a complaint. He had forced her to talk to the prime accused on the phone.
The APP also informed the court that the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) had seized five different sets of CCTV footage and that all of them were being analysed by experts.
The suspended Special DGP had handed over his mobile phone, too, on March 15 and it had been submitted before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Villupuram. The IO told the court that he would require six to eight weeks to complete the investigation and file a final report. Appreciating the IO for having spent a lot of energy and time in the case, the judge said there was no compulsion that the investigation should be completed within eight weeks since a time limit could lead to a hasty investigation.
Impressing upon the need to conduct an effective probe, the judge said the officer could always seek further time, if required, from the court after filing the next status report on April 30.