THE SEXUAL assault complaint lodged by an IPS officer that led to the Tamil Nadu government removing a Special DGP from his post capped a series of dramatic events across 24 hours early this week, including the complainant “rushing out of the car” in which the alleged incident took place — and later being allegedly “blocked by a team of 150 police personnel” led by an SP while on her way to record her grievance, The Sunday Express has learnt.
On February 22 afternoon, the day after the alleged incident, the complainant was able to reach Chennai and file a complaint with DGP J K Tripathy and the Home Department. Two days later, the state government removed Rajesh Das from the powerful post of Special DGP (Law and Order) and put him on “compulsory wait”. On the same day, the Home Department set up a six-member committee to probe the allegations.
Asked by reporters about the complaint, Chief Minister E K Palaniswami said Friday: “Nothing has been proved so far. A probe is on.”
When contacted by The Indian Express, Das said the complaint was “politically motivated”. “Don’t you know that it was a false complaint, that it was political? Why don’t you wait till the outcome of the inquiry? Don’t you know that you are not supposed to write about this case?” he said.
But The Indian Express spoke to several senior police officers who either said they witnessed some of the key moments in the alleged incident or had access to details. Their accounts added up to a chilling narrative of a woman officer being allegedly targeted by a superior while on duty and by a system scrambling to protect its own.
According to senior officers, the sequence of events unfolded around 10 pm last Sunday on the Trichy-Chennai highway. The Chief Minister’s convoy had just left the Kongu region after a pre-poll event, and the Special DGP was on his way back to Chennai after “VIP duty”. In line with norms, they said, the complainant was one of the district in-charges en route to receive the senior officer.
“Mostly, they do it with a salute and then accompany the convoy. But the senior officer asked her to join him in the car. There is nothing unusual in such a demand,” said a top officer.
The car had moved ahead for about 40 minutes when they reached the next point where IGP (North Zone) K Shankar, DIG M Pandian and IPS officer Ziaul Haque were waiting to receive Das. “As soon as the car stopped, the woman officer rushed out from the right side of the car. She literally ran for 15-20 metres… But her own official car was far behind. She requested Haque for his car. She didn’t speak about the incident to any of them,” sources said.
There were several attempts made subsequently to contact her but “she didn’t reply”, another senior officer said.
Asked about the sequence of events, IGP Shankar refused to comment. DIG Pandian was not available for comment. Haque said: “The matter is subject to a probe now. I don’t want to comment.”
On Monday morning, sources said, Das allegedly sought the help of an IG-rank officer to contact the woman officer. “But he couldn’t reach her immediately. An hour or two later, the officer came to know that she had left for Chennai. Soon, officers in Villupuram district were ordered to intercept her vehicle. But a team of officers who visited a toll plaza en route reported that her vehicle had already passed through,” said a senior officer.
At Chengalpet, the next district neighbouring Chennai, SP D Kannan and a team of policemen were ordered to intercept her car, the officer said. “The SP stopped the car and asked her to speak to the senior officer, and return. But she stood by her plan despite the intimidating atmosphere. The SP had about 150 policemen with him,” the officer said.
“When she firmly told the SP that she would record his role too in her complaint, he withdrew and allowed her to proceed,” the source said.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Kannan did not deny the incident but disputed the number of police personnel who were with him. “Not that much… See, I do not want to talk about it anymore. I have spoken about it already,” he said. Kannan had told reporters earlier that he wasn’t aware of the case or the complaint and was “merely following orders”.
Following the incident, a number of IPS officers have appealed to the Tamil Nadu IPS Officers Association to recommend the suspension of Das, Kannan and the senior officer who allegedly tried to help the Special DIG.
A statement from the IPS association said it stands in solidarity against any harassment at the workplace. “We request the inquiry committee to do justice by a free, fair and expeditious inquiry with sensitivity involved,” the association said.
Das has previously come under the scanner when he was ordered by the State Human Rights Commission in 2000 to pay a fine for allegedly assaulting police personnel. In 2004, he was suspended for allegedly misbehaving with subordinates.