The Supreme Court on Friday came down heavily on the Telangana government and the Telangana state police for their insensitive approach towards a BHEL employee who committed suicide last year on account of workplace sexual harassment.
The bench of Justice A. M. Khanwilkar was hearing a writ petition, through advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, by the victim’s mother seeking to urgently transfer the criminal investigation pertaining to the unfortunate death of her young and energetic daughter due to sexual harassment at her workplace at BHEL, Hyderabad from Telangana state police to the CBI or to any other independent central agency.
“Despite a lapse of more than eight months, the Telangana state police is not even filed the chargesheet. The main accused of the instant crime is a native of the state of Telangana, whereas the deceased was a Hindi speaking outsider, belonging to Bhopal, MP. Hence, there is strong apprehension to the mind of the petitioner that the Telangana police has a strong linguistic and regional bias in favour of the accused and against the deceased”, the petitioner has pleaded.
“We deprecate the request made by the counsel for the State of Telangana for an adjournment in this case and that too for a period of four weeks. To avoid embarrassment to the State, we refrain from recording the reasons mentioned across the Bar for that adjournment. The reasons stated indicates the insensitivity with which the investigation is progressing in this case. We say no more for the time being”, observed the bench, also comprising Justice Ravindra Bhat.
The bench directed that the Home Secretary, State of Telangana, shall personally look into this aspect and issue appropriate directions to all concerned, as may be advised, directing the Registry to forward a copy of this order to the Home Secretary. State of Telangana for immediate compliance through e- mail/on-line.
It is submitted that the petitioner’s deceased daughter was a bright, young and intelligent finance professional, having qualifications of B.Com, ICWA and MBA (Finance). She had joined the BHEL in July, 2009 at the young age of 23 years and served BHEL till her last breath, till October 2019 with at most dedication and devotion to her duties. There was not even an iota of complaint against her work or her mental behaviour during her long association with BHEL. However, she was sexually harassed, molested, stalked, mentally tortured and attempted to be raped by her own supervisor and her own office colleague at BHEL, Hyderabad due to which she ultimately committed suicide on October 17, 2019 at a young age of 33 years.
“The suicide note dated October 16, 2019 of the deceased and her last telephonic conversation of the same day with her sister categorically establish that her supervisor and her office colleagues subjected her to extreme level of physical and mental harassment or attempted to rape due to which she was forced to commit suicide”, it is advanced.
The plea urges that from the suicide note, it is quite axiomatic that the deceased daughter of the petitioner categorically stated that the attempt to rape and repeated sexual harassment by the main accused and other co-accused persons, had prompted her to commit suicide. However, despite this the Telangana state police has not yet arrested the main accused or any other accused persons and has not conducted any custodial interrogation. Per contra, the Telangana police has given a clean chit to the accused persons in its latest report of June, 2020. It is further submitted that the National Commission for Women had rejected the said police report.
The petitioners daughter committed suicide on 17 October, 2019 and her mobile phone were seized by the police authorities on the very same day. However, it was only after a lapse of 40 days that the police authorities for the first time asked for the unlock pattern of the mobile phone of the deceased. Another crucial piece of evidence is the recording audio recording of the telephonic conversation between the victim and her sister. The conversation was primarily in Hindi. However, it was only after the lapse of 40 days that the investigation agencies asked for the English transcript of the said telephonic conversation. The police report dated June 2, 2020 reveals the investigating officer did not seize the mobile phones of the accused persons and did not send the same to the forensic lab for examination or for a retrieval of the data, despite the fact that even in her suicide note the deceased herself had requested for examination of the mobile phones of the accused persons.
“There is another shocking attempt of the Telangana police to blame the unfortunate the suicide to the deceased’s alleged mental illness, despite the fact that her employer BHEL has categorically deposed that no sign of any mental illness was shown by her at her workplace. The shocking attitude of the local police of victim-blaming and victim-shaming even before completion of the investigation has given a firm and reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner that fair investigation of her daughter’s suicide will not be done”, it is submitted.
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