A sexual assault case had been lodged against a senior official of the Adani-run Trivandrum International Airport last week, following which the company has suspended him from service.
Thumba police on Saturday registered a case against Chief Airport Officer (CAO), Madhusudana Rao, based on a complaint filed by a woman employee working under him.
Police said a case had been registered under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code including Section 376 (Rape). Speaking to media, the police then said,
As per the complaint, the incident happened on January 4. We have some evidence against him. The probe is on. However, the accused is not at his residence here and his phone is switched off.
Allegations by Woman Complainant
According to the woman complaint, the accused invited her to his apartment and attempted to molest her.
Statement by Airport Authority
A spokesperson of the airport then issued a statement confirming that they had received a complaint of sexual harassment from an employee and said the company had zero tolerance for such behaviour. The spokesperson then quoted to the media,
We have received a complaint of sexual harassment by a Thiruvananthapuram airport employee. We have zero tolerance for such behaviour. The safety and well-being of every staffer is our top priority and we have taken this complaint very seriously. The employee has been immediately suspended from service.
The statement said the airport authority was thoroughly assessing the facts and would fully assist investigations.
Submissions by Accused
Advocate Sasthamangalam S. Ajithkumar appearing for the petitioner had argued that even if there was any sexual association between the petitioner and the de facto complainant, they were in a consensual relationship.
He added that it was when the petitioner turned down the woman’s demand for a huge amount of money to settle certain liability of hers, that she registered the crime raising several allegations against him.
The main argument raised by Rao was that although the woman’s case was that rape was committed on January 4 2022, the WhatsApp conversation between them up to January 14 indicates that even after the date of the alleged incident, they were in a cordial and friendly relationship.
Rao’s counsel submitted that he was ready to co-operate with the investigation and that he is a senior citizen suffering from various diseases such as high blood pressure, chronic diabetes and high sensitive CRP reading of 70.0 fg/l which suggest that he is highly prone to heart diseases.
It was asserted that his custody was not required for the investigation of the case.
Arguments by Public Prosecutor
The Public Prosecutor vehemently opposed the grant of bail on several counts, mostly citing that the petitioner had misused his position of CAO and practically forced the complainant to enter into a sexual relationship with him.
It was added that for a proper investigation, the petitioner’s custody is absolutely essential and that the actual relationship between the parties can only be ascertained after a thorough investigation.
Notably, the Prosecutor pointed out that the transcripts of WhatsApp conversation between them placed on record was an edited version that does not contain most messages sent by the petitioner.
On this ground, he argued that a person who places an edited version of conversion was not entitled to the discretionary relief of anticipatory bail.
Kerala High Court
The Court agreed with the Prosecutor with regards to contents of whatsapp chats. However, upon being informed by the petitioner that the chats have been backed up and all chats up to January 11 can be recovered from cloud storage, the Judge was convinced that it was a fit case to be granted pre-arrest bail. The court noted,
It was not proper for the petitioner to place an edited version of the WhatsApp conversion on record. However, the counsel submits that the entire conversation between the petitioner and the de facto complainant has been backed up and can be recovered by the prosecution as available in cloud storage.
Pre-Arrest Bail Granted
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday granted anticipatory bail to Madhusudana Rao in the said case after Justice P. Gopinath considered various facts on record. The high court also cited the age of the petitioner and his ailments and remarked,
I agree with the Public Prosecutor that the allegations are of serious nature, but the age of the petitioner and his medical conditions should be taken into consideration, I am therefore of the view that the petitioner can be granted anticipatory bail.
While allowing the application, the Single Bench also recalled that it is settled law by the Apex Court decision in Sushila Aggarwal & Ors v State of NCT of Delhi that limited custody is sufficient to fulfil the provisions of Section 27 of Indian Evidence Act, in the event of recovery of an article.
The pe-arrest bail was granted with a condition that the petitioner, although currently placed under suspension, shall not enter the workplace until the filing of the final report.
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