PUCL Bulletin, April 2001
of a Rape Victim: Forced to Withdraw the Complaint
By Sudha Ramalingam
It is common knowledge that women who are subject to sexual harassment are looked upon not as a victim but as an abettor, if not perpetrator, of the crime. This is truer in case of a rape victim. It is still more so if the rapist belongs to any power lobby. Here I am narrating a true story of a rape victim and the manifold problems she, and the organizations that helped her fight for justice, faced even while fighting a losing battle.
Though the rape victim that I am writing about has even given interviews on the T.V. and newspapers, I am not giving her true name or that of the rapist as she has withdrawn her complaint as on date.
Puja (fictitious name) was employed as a postgraduate teacher in a State Govt. School for handicapped children. She first entered service in the year 1975 as a Secondary Grade Head Mistress. Even while being employed she had enhanced her educational qualification through correspondence courses and had acquired M.A., B.Ed., SDTT (Senior Diploma in Teaching the Deaf) degrees / diplomas. Due to the above said qualifications she was promoted from Secondary Grade to Post-Graduate Assistant Grade in the year 1997 and posted in the Government School for the Deaf in another district. But the State, under a mistaken impression that she had not done SDTT, demoted her back to Secondary Grade and posted in the Government School for the Deaf in yet another district. She hence moved against the said demotion in the Tamil Nadu Administrative Tribunal.
Puja was thereafter posted as the Head Mistress of Government Middle School for the Deaf in Pudukottai and thereafter transferred to the Government Middle School for the Deaf in Virudhunagar in June 1999. There, as she took stringent action against some erring personnel and tried to bring about reforms in the institution, false complaints were given against her and was suspended without enquiry in November1999. After her representations and due enquiry, her suspension was revoked in January 2000 and she was also once again promoted as Post Graduate Assistant and posted in Dharmapuri. From there she was transferred to Tanjore on 9.2.2000.
Throughout her career as a teacher she had been a very hard worker doing her job with a sense of dedication and devotion. On her taking charge at Tanjore, she found that the Department had not supplied textbooks to students in plus one. She also had certain official grievances to be solved, such as the non-fixation of her pay as per sixth pay commission. She was only drawing Rs.1,850/- basic. Her salary for January and February 2000 were not disbursed due to the inadequacy of lack of signature in the LPC (Last Pay Certificate) sent from Dharmapuri. Her General Provident Fund advance for Rs.18,000/-, which was sanctioned, was lying in Virudhunagar and was not sent to Tanjore. For the redressal of the above said grievances she went to the Directorate of the Disabled and Rehabilitation at Chennai to meet the Commissioner and seek redressal for the above on 10th March 2000.
The Commissioner of the said Directorate is an officer belonging to the I.A.S. cadre. Puja met him on the 10th of March in the office of the said department at Chennai officially. After favourably disposing of all her requests, he started discussing about her family matters. It is pertinent here to submit that Puja had married a colleague of hers. It was a love marriage. Her husband belongs to the Scheduled Caste. She belongs to the Chettiyar caste. They have three children born out of the wedlock. The first son is doing his MBBS (IV YEAR) in the Stanley Medical College at Chennai, second daughter is doing her B.Sc. Agriculture (II year) in Coimbatore while the third daughter is doing her higher secondary course. But due to certain differences Puja has been separated from her husband for the last three years. They both work in the same department. Her husband too is a teacher in the Government School for the Deaf in Erode. As her husband and herself belong to the same department many in the department knew about their separation. The Commissioner also knew about their separation. Further, the Commissioner also belonged to the S.C. community.
On 10th March 2000, when Puja met the Commissioner he was very kind, sympathetic and called his assistant and made her type out all necessary papers for her. He even made STD calls to Tanjore, Virudhunagar and Dharmapuri for redressal of her grievances. Her transfer order from Dharmapuri to Tanjore was originally signed by the Asst. Director. In order to avoid further delay and facilitate her to get her salary he even re-constructed her transfer order with his signatures ante-dating the same.
After completing the above official formalities, the Commissioner started enquiring about Puja's family affairs. He also assured to further redress her grievances. Since the next day was a Saturday and a holiday, he said that he would be visiting the Anjaneyar temple at Alwarpet by 11 a.m. He asked Puja to meet him there.
On March 11th, the Commissioner came in his car to the Anjaneyar Temple at about 11.45 a.m. He asked her to get into his car. She also got in unsuspectingly. The car stopped at a house. The Commissioner asked her to come into the house so that he could listen to her problems so as to be able to suggest remedies for further action. Initially the Commissioner spoke very considerately and enquired in detail about her personal problems. He was only advising her generally. But slowly he started taking alcohol and also switched on a blue film in the T.V. Shocked by such unexpected and unbecoming behaviour of his, she tried to escape, but she was brutally pulled and assaulted, dragged, and unlawfully confined in the said room. The Commissioner thereafter immobilized her and raped her repeatedly 4 times. He also bit her brutally in her breast causing injury. Later, by about 7.30 p.m. she was dropped in an auto stand and warned of dire consequences if she chose to disclose about the assault and rape to anybody. Dazed and traumatised, she weakly retired to her local relative's residence at Alwar Thiru Nagar but however did not disclose anything for fear of retribution as also due to deep sense of shame she felt due to the rape and sexual assault on her person. Unable to bear the pain and sickness caused by the lacerations on her breast caused by the biting, she went to a local doctor named Dr. G.S. Lakshmi on the 12th March. She administered some antibiotics and anti tetanus injection. This brought Puja temporary relief upon which she went back to Tanjore. She however hesitated to tell anyone out of fear and shame and suffered in silence. But her agony was not to end and in fact worsened. She realized that her vaginal region was badly mutilated and infected. It became septic, with pus oozing. She suffered severe pain even to pass urine.
Puja consulted Dr. Tirupurasundari in Thanjavur on 17th March. She administered a course of medication and treatment. Even though this only brought her marginal relief, the whole episode and further severe pain with running temperature made her feel as if she would die. This nearness to death / suffering emboldened her to take this up as an issue to bring to book the culprit so that no more helpless women would suffer such atrocity or a similar fate at the hands of people like the Commissioner.
On 20th of March, Puja met the Superintendent of Police of Tanjavur (hereinafter referred to as SP) at Thanjavur in person and preferred a written complaint about the said rape committed by the Commissioner. He received her complaint and listened to her and told her to meet the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Tanjore as he was his superior officer and the complaint was a serious one pertaining to a highly placed officer of the I.A.S. cadre. Puja immediately met him and gave him a copy of the said written complaint preferred to the SP. The DIG also received the said complaint and listened to her with sympathy. But he told her that as the incidents took place at Chennai, there was no jurisdiction for him to act on the complaint and so advised Puja to go and meet the Commissioner of Police (hereinafter referred to as COP) at Chennai. Hence, on his advice, Puja went to Chennai on 21st of March, met the COP and lodged a written complaint with him. The COP read the said complaint, spoke to her sympathetically, marked a few portions of her complaint and gave it back to her and asked her to meet the Joint Commissioner at his office situated in the first floor of the same building. Puja, immediately met the Joint Commissioner. He too read the same complaint and made a few preliminary enquiries and asked her to go to the All Women's Police Station at Adayar and meet the Deputy Commissioner there.
Puja was perplexed at the plight of being tossed from one officer to the other. She hence went and met a reporter in Junior Vikatan, a Tamil News Weekly, doing investigative journalism. He directed her to take the aid of the All India Democratic Women's Association (herein after referred to as AIDWA). She immediately went to the AIDWA and from AIDWA proceeded to the Adayar All Women Police Station. There the Asst. Commissioner, Ms. Jaya Gowri, enquired from her till late that evening. Ms. Jaya Gowri even took her to Abayanilayam (Government Reception Home) to lodge her for that night. As AIDWA had made arrangements with Sahadori (a short stay home for women in distress) of YWCA for her stay she requested that she be allowed to stay there and so she was allowed to stay at YWCA.
It was quite inexplicable that even though the Asst. Commissioner of Police questioned her for a long time, she did not even fulfill the minimum requirement of sending Puja for a medical examination and treatment.
On 23rd March Puja suffered acute pain while trying to pass urine, so the activists in the YWCA took her first to a private doctor. Even on seeing the injuries in her private parts the doctor said that since it appeared to be a case of rape and therefore a medico legal case, it was advisable to take Puja to a Government Hospital for treatment. Puja was therefore taken to the Kilpauk Medical College Hospital. There the duty officer said that as it was a criminal case of rape, she had to be brought only by the police with a memo and so refused to treat her. By then it was evening. Not knowing what to do next, she was taken back to the hostel.
The following day, i.e. on 24th March, Puja was taken to the office of the AIDWA. The activists there, got in touch with the COP by phone. He said that he will ask the Asst. Commissioner, Ms. Jaya Gowri to come to the Thousand Lights Police Station and that Puja could take her help. Despite waiting for several hours Ms. Jaya Gowri did not come to the AWPS. As Puja was visibly suffering from pain due to the injuries and retention of urine for the last 24 hours, the AIDWA activists telephonically contacted the AWPS, Adyar. Since Ms. Jaya Gowri could not be traced, and she was the Investigation Officer in the case, no other police personnel could give a Memo to the Hospital to enable Puja to be admitted in a hospital. When the AIDWA activists enquired about what remedial action to take for immediate medical attention, they were advised by a police official of the AWPS, Adyar who was responding to the call to take Puja to the nearby Kasturbai Gandhi Government Hospital for Women and Children (henceforth described as Kasturbai Hospital) and get her admitted for continued urine retention. Puja was immediately taken to Kasturbai Hospital and admitted on 24th March 2000 with the complaint for retention of urine for over 24 hours.
Soon after admission Puja told the Duty Doctor about the rape committed on her by the Commissioner. From then on the hospital authorities kept Puja in isolation, almost like a prisoner. She was denied permission to meet even the AIDWA activists / leaders who had helped her till then. She was not told about the nature of treatment given or the tests conducted on her. All the 24 hours policewomen in uniform guarded her. She was not allowed to talk to anyone except the duty doctor and staff. She was permitted to meet the AIDWA activists and the press for brief intervals only after AIDWA activists fought for such permission during visiting hours. Such permission was given only twice. Her discharge certificate too does not reveal the nature of treatment given in detail.
Puja was discharged on 6.4.2000. Yet till date she has been kept in the dark about the medical treatment given and the tests done on her. Puja was even taken to the Government General Hospital while she was an in-patient for some tests. But she has not been made aware of what was the test / treatment done except that she was subjected to severe pain during such investigation by doctors. Till the date of the rape committed on her by the Commissioner Puja has not suffered any ailment pertaining to her reproductive organs or even suffered urinary infection.
Even when Puja was an in-patient in the Kasturbai Hospital, the police took her to the Judicial Magistrate's Court at Saidapet. There the IX Metropolitan Magistrate recorded her statement in detail u/s 164 Cr.P.C. It needs to be stressed that she had given complaints six times to various police officials at both Chennai and Thanjavur, including the statement before the Magistrate. In all of them Puja had made it clear that she bore no ill will or vindictive attitude against the Commissioner. Her allegations have been consistent all through. Yet no concrete action had been taken against the Commissioner, who has been allowed by the police officials to remain free thereby enabling him to tamper with the evidence and influence the investigation.
Puja heard the Commissioner addressing his car driver as Mural. The driver knew the incidents as he drove the car in which the Commissioner took her to the house. He was waiting outside and had also dropped Puja after the rape along with the Commissioner who directed him to drive to another bus stop, to avoid being dropped near the place of occurrence. The driver is thus a crucial witness to the entire incident. But the driver had no role to play in the crime committed on her by the Commissioner. Strangely, instead of securing evidence from him as a witness, the prosecution had added him as an accused along with the Commissioner. This was been done purposely to ensure that he would be disqualified from deposing as a witness thereby compromising the prosecution case.
In this case the law was subverted for reasons best known to the police and normal investigative procedures that ought to be followed in a heinous crime like rape have not been followed. It is pertinent to state here that the Commissioner, as a senior I.A.S., by not having been arrested immediately, has had all the opportunities to manipulate the records and create alibi. Because of his high position and connections no one dared to give true evidence against the Commissioner. It also needs to be stressed that this has given him the opportunity to malign Puja through press conferences and deliberate planting of information. It is an unparalleled occasion when a person accused of committing a serious crime has been given the liberty to use his position and power to escape from the clutches of law.
As a matter of fact the Commissioner, with his bureaucratic clout, created an alibi of a visit to Cuddalore about 180 k.m. from Chennai, for inspection of a private deaf and dumb school on that fateful day in a private car. It is learnt from reliable sources that the administrator of that school Mr. Thavaraj has had and continues to have a close association and relationship with the Commissioner and that explains the alibi.
Even though the complaint was preferred on 21st March 2000 to the Commissioner of Police, and was also enquired by the Asst. Commissioner Ms. Jaya Gowri on the very same day, the FIR was registered on 24.3.2000 as W-1 Crime No.9 of 2000. It says that Puja preferred the complaint on 24.3.2000 at 23.45 hours. The FIR was registered against the Commissioner and the driver under Section 376 read with Section 109 I.P.C. Section 109 IPC pertains to punishment for abetment. While Puja's complaint was only against the Commissioner and no one else. The driver has been added as an afterthought, only to silence him from providing valuable evidence through the ruse of adding section 109 IPC against him. Further, the F.I.R. has also not included the offences of unlawful restraint, assault, hurt etc. committed by the Commissioner. This had been done only to help the Commissioner to dilute the prosecution case against him.
In spite of the serious nature of the crime the accused has not been arrested. Even after obtaining Puja's statement on oath before the Judicial Magistrate under Section 164 Cr.P.C., the police have treated her with contempt and suspicion.
In these circumstances as Puja and All India Democratic Women's Association were doubtful about the impartial nature of police investigation and collection of evidence in this case. They strongly felt that the Commissioner would throw all his weight to scuttle it further. Hence they asked for the investigation to be transferred from the local police to a more professional and specialised investigating agency such as the CB-CID in view of the senior position occupied by the accused. As a matter of fact the AIDWA even held a road roko and finally got the investigation transferred to the CB-CID. I am of the view that unless the investigation is handled by a senior level police official of the CB-CID, higher in rank and seniority to the accused, investigations may not be free from intimidation and influence by the accused.
After the transfer of the investigation to the CB-CID, once again Puja gave her statement. The officers of CB-CID said that they are honestly investigating into every aspect of the case. Puja had to rejoin duty at Tanjore. So she left Chennai and went to Tanjore. When she gave a leave letter to her office the same was not accepted as she was hospitalised in Chennai, the authorities wanted her to get a letter of fitness certificate from the Kasthuri Bai Gandhi Hospital. There the hospital authorities told her that as she did not avail leave because of their medical advise they could not give a fitness certificate for rejoining! So the AIDWA activists had to meet the Tamil Nadu Government's Secretary to Health and use all the advocacy skills possible and get her a fitness certificate.
After rejoining duty at Tanjore, Puja used to be in touch with the AIDWA activists regularly. She was all the while also telling that she was being pressurised by the Commissioner's men and well-wishers to compromise and withdraw the complaint. But she repeatedly said that she would not oblige. Even as all were awaiting the arrest and remand of the Commissioner by the CB-CID, AIDWA came to know from reliable sources that Puja had withdrawn her complaint. She is said to have given a notarised affidavit stating that in view of her family circumstances she is withdrawing her complaint and the investigation has been closed for want of evidence!
In spite of the grit and determination showed by the victim Puja, the support extended by an all India organization such as the AIDWA, the media which gave wide publicity to the entire sequence of events, the Commissioner has wielded his influence and managed to escape scot-free. Justice has been buried. No woman will dare to give a police complaint if this is the fate of complaints with such corroborative evidence. Puja is now not willing to talk to any one even the AIDWA activists who helped her when she needed their help. It is understandable. Complaint of rape, which is a cognizable offence, which cannot be compounded or withdrawn, has been given a decent burial by the State in connivance with the powers that be. She is a classic example to the saying that in cases where women are the victim, the victim is more haunted than the accused.
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