Thiruvananthapuram: A seven-year-old fake sexual harassment case has come back to haunt its key personnel, including Swapna Suresh, the accused in the gold smuggling case and former confidante of the once-powerful Kerala bureaucrat M Sivasankar, IAS.
The Crime Branch filed a chargesheet against 10 accused, including Swapna Suresh and Binoy Jacob, former Vice-Chairman of the Air India-SATS Airport Services Private Limited.
Binoy Jacob is the first accused. The second accused and the then HR Manager of Air India-SATS Swapna Suresh had allegedly forged the fake sexual harassment complaint. Swapna held this post from 2013 to 2016.
LS Sibu, a former Air India official who was the target, has also been named in the chargesheet.
(Air India-SATS, a joint venture of Air India and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS Ltd), provides ground handling services across airports in India.)
Crime Branch Deputy Superintendent of Police R Anil Kumar filed the chargesheet before the First-Class Judicial Magistrate Court. The chargesheet was filed at least now, five years after the registration of the case, due to the intervention of the Kerala High Court.
According to the chargesheet, the fake harassment case was fabricated as part of taking revenge on Sibu, who was the Air India apron officer in Thiruvananthapuram and the Kerala regional secretary of the Air India Officers' Association, for giving a complaint to the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Central Vigilance Commission against corrupt practices at the Air India-SATS office.
The members of the internal inquiry committee dealing with sexual harassment complaints, Air India Deputy General Manager Sathya Subramanian, former Executive Director Uma Maheswari Sudhakaran, former Senior Assistant General Manager RMS Rajan and advocate Sreeja Sasidharan, were also listed as accused on charge of favouring the fabrication of the fake harassment case.
It is for the first time in the State that the internal inquiry committee members of an organisation are accused in a Crime Branch case.
The other accused in the case are Air India-SATS employees Deepak Anto, K K Sheeba, Neethu Mohan and former Air India Station Manager Leena Vineeth.
What Crime Branch says
The Crime Branch's case is that fake complaint was filed before the Airport Director and the Union Civil Aviation Secretary in January 2015 alleging that Sibu had sexually harassed 17 women employees. The complaint was given in the name of a non-existing employees' association, that too without the knowledge of the women employees who were named as victims in the complaint.
While acting on a complaint by Sibu, the police later filed a case against Binoy Jacob stating that the sexual harassment complaint was fabricated and the women whose names were given as complainants did not even know about such a complaint.
The Crime Branch found that Swapna Suresh had worked behind bringing Neethu Mohan before the internal inquiry committee in the fake name of Parvathy Sabu and making her give a false statement against Sibu.
Swapna was also found to have forged the signatures of 17 women employees.
Later, the Crime Branch also gave a report that it was a fake sexual harassment case. But in another police report submitted in the same year, it was said that there was no proof against Binoy. Then smelling foul play, Sibu approached the Kerala High Court.
Swapna terms it revenge
Swapna Suresh alleged that M Sivasankar, IAS, used his influence to ensure the sudden filing of the chargesheet in the case. She said that the same Sivasankar had helped her earlier to face even the police questioning.
She said that by working behind the scenes for the filing of this chargesheet, Sivasankar was taking revenge on her for speaking out the truth in the gold smuggling case.
During the course of the initial inquiry into the fake harassment case, Sivasankar was alleged to have exerted pressure on the Crime Branch top officials to secure Swapna.
Many times, Swapna did not appear before the Crime Branch when she was called for questioning. Only after the court strongly interfered, she was questioned by the Crime Branch.