The Madras High Court recently ruled on the plea of former Tamil Nadu Director General of Police (DGP) Rajesh Das seeking a transfer of appeal against his sexual harassment conviction. Justice Anand Venkatesh dismissed the plea, emphasizing the absence of substantial grounds for transferring the case. The court directed the lower appellate court to expedite the hearing and deliver a verdict by January 24th, 2024.
In a significant observation, the court highlighted that Das’s claims lacked merit, suggesting that his attempts to infer bias were baseless. The judgment underscored Das’s failure to provide reasonable grounds for transferring the case, indicating a self-created apprehension rather than actual bias on the part of the lower appellate judge.
The case dates back to’June of the previous year when the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Villupuram, convicted Das of sexually harassing a woman Superintendent of Police while on official duty, sentencing him to three years in prison along with a fine. This incident, wherein the woman officer alleged harassment by the Special DGP during official travel to Ulundurpet District, resulted in the registration of an FIR against Das and another police officer under various sections of the IPC and the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, 1998.
The Madras High Court’s intervention in 2021 deemed the case “shocking” and “monstrous,” affecting the female officers within the Tamil Nadu Police Force. The court took cognizance of the matter, emphasizing the need for vigilant investigation and prompting the suspension of the officer by the Tamil Nadu government.
Subsequently, when Das sought to transfer the trial, the Supreme Court closed the suo moto case initiated by the High Court for monitoring the investigation. The Supreme Court ordered the trial court to assess the case independently, devoid of influence from prior High Court orders.
In Das’s recent plea for the transfer of the appeal, he argued potential bias due to adverse publicity surrounding the case. He further alleged that the appellate judge scheduled a judgment date without hearing his side, thereby casting doubts on the fairness of the appellate judge’s mindset.
Conversely, the Additional Public Prosecutor countered Das’s claims, asserting that Das was prolonging the proceedings and avoiding participation in the criminal appeal’s arguments. It was emphasized that Das had been given ample opportunities but seemed unwilling to present his side effectively.
During the proceedings, Mr. V. Prakash served as the Senior Counsel for Mr. M. Vijaya Mehanath, representing the petitioner, while Mr. A. Damodaran, Additional Public Prosecutor, acted as counsel for the respondent.
The recent ruling by the Madras High Court signifies a pivotal development in the ongoing legal battle involving Rajesh Das’s sexual harassment conviction. The dismissal of Das’s appeal transfer plea and the directive for an expedited hearing reflect the judiciary’s commitment to ensuring justice in a case that has drawn considerable attention.