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Sleaze camera finger at top cop

P Ravindranath

Bangalore, May 27: One of the state’s senior-most police officers has been booked on sexual harassment charges after allegedly clicking inappropriate pictures of two young women at a coffee shop here yesterday.

P. Ravindranath, additional director-general of state reserve police and winner of the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service this year, was in civilian clothes. The 50-year-old IPS officer was slapped by one of the women and passers-by, stripped of his shirt by police and thrown into a lock-up.

But after another senior officer rushed to the High Grounds police station and got him freed in less than an hour yesterday, the accused held a news conference today to claim he had been framed.

Late this evening, he tendered his resignation to the state director-general of police “for the sake of a free and fair investigation”, but it wasn’t clear whether it had been accepted.

High Grounds police said the two women — a former newspaper reporter and her cousin who works with an IT firm — Ravindranath and another man were the only customers at the coffee shop when the alleged incident took place around 10.45am.

The written complaint by the former journalist said: “We (the two women) were talking when we noticed (that) a man sitting next to us was staring at us in an obscene manner. Then we noticed that he was using a camera phone and taking pictures.”

Police sources said one of the women slapped the accused, the fracas drawing two passers-by into the coffee shop. They too thrashed Ravindranath despite his repeated claims that he was a police officer, the sources said.

“On scanning his phone, they found pictures of the two women shot from obscene angles,” a police source said.

The complaint said: “He threatened us after we managed to get the mobile phone from him.”

After the women called the police, the accused was taken to the police station. Officers initially dismissed his ID card as fake, forced him to take his shirt off — a routine to ensure detainees don’t try to hang themselves — and locked him up.

But Ravindranath used the phone call that accused are allowed to contact someone that the sources described as “a very senior officer”. The officer arrived quickly. Only then did the local police realise who the accused was.

After his release, Ravindranath attended a senior state police officers’ meeting yesterday evening and, according to High Ground police sources, sought action against the local police.

But today, the local police registered an FIR, booking Ravindranath under penal sections 506 (criminal intimidation) and 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty). The maximum punishment is seven years.

Police sources said Ravindranath might be arrested but that hadn’t happened by late evening.

Ravindranath called a news conference this afternoon at the same coffee shop, on Cunningham Road in the heart of Bangalore, and said some police officers were trying to frame him. He did not say who or why.

“I was having coffee after going through an ultrasound scan on an empty stomach. Just then I heard someone from upstairs (in the coffee shop) shouting that I was taking obscene pictures,” Ravindranath said. “I want the case handed over to the CBI.”

Police sources said the CCTV cameras at the coffee shop were dysfunctional.

Ravikanthe Gowda, deputy commissioner of police, said Ravindranath’s cellphone had been sent for forensic tests to check the images. “We’ll conduct an impartial inquiry,” he said.

State home minister K.J. George promised “action if he is found guilty”.