Cops take 3 yrs to hand over key evidence

In 2007, a workplace sexual harassment case at financial major KPMG had sent shockwaves through the corporate world. Now, five years later, a crucial piece of evidence — a forensic report — has surfaced in the case and has recently been handed over to the public prosecutor.

Sexual harassment
Representation pic

The concern that is now being raised is whether it was a deliberate attempt by the police to hide the forensic lab report, which the victim claims the police had got hold of in 2009, with the intention of derailing the trial and depriving justice to the victim.

The forensic report concerns evidence from the laptops of the accused, against whom the victim has been fighting a battle in court for the last five years.

Alka Dixit (name changed) filed the sexual harassment case at the NM Joshi Marg police station against her colleagues in July 2007 for allegedly sending her obscene and sexually explicit mails and sexually harassing her at regular intervals within and outside the KPMG office.

Some of the accused named in the chargesheet are still serving, while some have quit KPMG.

The offence was made out under Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intention to outrage her modesty) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code.

Acting on the basis of the complaint, the police had even captured images of the contents of the laptops of the accused and sent these for authentication to the State Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), Kalina.

According to the victim, the police had filed a chargesheet in the case in December 2007 before the Bhoiwada court with a mention that the forensic report from the FSL in Kalina were awaited.

The victim procured a copy of the chargesheet under the Right to Information (RTI) a few months later. After some time, when Dixit made enquiries at the court, she was informed by the staff there that she would be officially informed by the court when the matter came up for framing of charges, as there was a backlog of 2,002 cases.

On August 24 this year, when the matter came up for hearing, Dixit was surprised that the accused, who were out on bail, were not present in court. She even brought to the notice of the court that the framing of charges was still pending. Accordingly, summonses were issued to the accused asking them to be present for the next hearing, which was fixed on October 17.

Dixit requested the court to allow her to check the certified copies available with the court, which was allowed.

“During inspection of the file, I found that the accused had been filing exemption certificates and that the forensic report had not yet been submitted to the court even though, as per my information, it was sent by the Forensic Science Laboratory to the NM Joshi Marg police in November 2009 itself,” Dixit said. “On September 4, 2012, I filed an RTI seeking information on the forensic report with the NM Joshi Marg police. On October 10, even though 30 days had elapsed, I got no reply. I even approached the NM Joshi Marg police officials, and they assured me they would look into it. Later, I approached the appellate authority, DCP Zone 3.”

Dixit claims that on October 17 the court staff informed her that the NM Joshi Marg police had submitted the forensic report to the public prosecutor just a day before.

The conviction rate is miserably low in the state compared to other states in the country, and the lethargic attitude of the police is often cited as a key reason for such a state of affairs.

Dixit is also unhappy that she is not allowed to represent her own case before the court.

“The court says that as the case is filed by the state, only the PP (public prosecutor) can represent me and I am not required to come to the court,” she said. “Also, discussions with the PP revealed that they are overburdened with hundreds of cases and often they have to be present at two to three courts at the same time, due to which the cases go unrepresented. So what does a victim do to expedite justice — watch helplessly and be at the mercy of the state, which is responsible for implementing the Vishaka (guidelines) as per the SC order in the case of Medha Kotwal?” 

The other side
DCP Kishore Jadhav said: “I do not recollect anything, I will have to go through the papers.” Senior Inspector Sudhakar J Ghagare of the NM Joshi Marg police station said: “I will have to check the papers before making any comments.”  

Lawyers speak
Senior counsel Adhik Shirodkar

On the face of it, it was not a lapse but a deliberate design by the police to suppress vital independent evidence from the court, and the idea apparently was to give benefit to the accused. There is incompetence of the police officers if it is a case of not knowing the forensic requirements, but sometimes it is done deliberately. Every person has a right to take part in the conduct of the case by engaging an advocate and this can be done in two ways: by making an application to the Law and Judiciary department and, secondly, one can engage to assist the prosecutor.

Advocate Dinesh Tiwari
Non-filing of the FSL report clearly indicates that the police were playing mischief and, considering that the document is very crucial evidence in the case, it does not seem to be a bona fide mistake. And it is also apathy on the part of the state government that it does not appoint enough number of efficient and competent public prosecutors, due to which the conviction rates are dipping in the state of Maharashtra. It seems the state government is more interested in the areas where money can be pocketed instead of improving the criminal justice system. 

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