The police had argued in court that the survivor was assaulted in a lab under the control of the two accused professors and that they could not have been unaware of it.
Two professors named as accused in the sexual assault case of a Dalit PhD scholar of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras were granted anticipatory bail by the Madras High Court on Wednesday, April 20. In her complaint filed in March 2021, the 30-year-old survivor stated that she was sexually harassed by eight persons. The two professors, G Edamana Prasad and L Ramesh Gardas, were also named in the FIR.
The survivor had also named one Kingshuk, a fellow scholar and main accused in the case, accusing him of sexually assaulting her. However, the FIR was only registered in June, three months after the complaint was first filed. Even then, rape charges were not mentioned in the FIR. The FIR also omitted sections of the SC/ST Act. Later, more charges were added after the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) took up the issue. However, prime accused Kingshuk was able to get bail, and also skipped summons issued to him citing health reasons.
The case was transferred to the Crime Branch – Crime Investigation Department (CB-CID) on April 11, close to one year after the complaint was lodged. G Edamana Prasad and L Ramesh Gardas are from the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at IIT-Madras and had applied for anticipatory bail.
Claiming that the allegations were against the first accused Kingshuk and that the institute did not find any evidence against them when the survivor had lodged a complaint at the institute in 2020, the two professors said that their names were not mentioned in the complaint but this was added in the FIR. Further, stating that they appeared for enquiry whenever they were called, the professors sought anticipatory bail.
However, the police argued in court that the survivor was assaulted in a lab under the control of the two professors and they could not have been unaware of it. The police also informed that they had sought the cancellation of bail to prime accused Kingshuk, and that the two professors had to be taken into custody for conducting an investigation. The professors contended that students were made as representatives of the lab and that they should not be compared with Kingshuk.
Read: IIT-M rape accused gets bail, activists question attitude of Chennai cops
After hearing the arguments, Justice G Jayachandran granted bail to the professors based on the conditions that they should not leave the state without informing the CB-CID. They were also instructed that they should not leave the country without getting permission from the court.
In March 2020, the survivor had filed the complaint citing incidents of harassment between 2016 and 2020, and the FIR was registered in June under sections 354 (assault of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 354B (assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe), 354C (voyeurism) and 506(1) (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Later, the FIR was altered to include Sections 376 of IPC (punishment for rape) and relevant sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
While Kingshuk, was arrested from West Bengal on March 27 by the Tamil Nadu police, he secured bail the very next day, March 28 by arguing in court that he would pay the surety on an anticipatory bail he had obtained on December 6, 2021. The Chennai police later issued fresh summons to the accused to appear before investigating officials on March 31. However, he did not appear in person for the enquiry and instead sent an email stating that he was affected by chickenpox, rendering him unable to join the investigation.
Read: IIT Madras Dalit student sexually assaulted on campus, no action by cops for a year