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Polls apart

india Updated: Mar 07, 2009 00:56 IST
Ramesh Babu
Chief Election Officer of Kerala

Nalini Netto is the Chief Election Officer of Kerala. A powerful position that requires no small amount of time, strength and commitment. With elections just announced, Netto is in the thick of the action.

But she also has to make time for a decade-long fight for justice. On December 21, 1999, Nalini, then Transport Secretary, was summoned by Transport Minister A Neelalohitadasan Nadar to his cabin. What transpired inside saw her running out in tears. According to the chargesheet filed by R.S. Mooshahary, then crime branch head, Nadar grappled with Nalini and tried to kiss her forcibly, leaving minor injuries on her lip and right index finger.

Nalini, backed by her husband Desmond, an IPS officer, filed a sexual harassment suit against the minister. Neither her unblemished career nor her official position counted for much as Nalini had to face one ignominy after another. A fast track court hearing her case adjourned at least 21 times. In the trial court, she was subjected to cross-examination for nine gruelling days — unheard of in legal circles — and was denied an in-camera hearing. It took almost a year to file the FIR. And Nalini and Desmond (now an additional director general of police) had to face defamation suits.

The trial began in July 2004, almost five years later. The first class magistrate at Thiruvanantha-puram sentenced Nadar to three months imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000. But the additional district and sessions court (fast track) later absolved Nadar of all charges. However, the state government recently moved a criminal petition in the high court for initiating prosecution against Nadar for fabricating false evidence.

The case is now in the Kerala High Court and Nalini has vowed to take it to the end. “I wouldn’t wish the trauma I have gone through on even my worst enemy,” she says tersely.

However, Fate has brought the two adversaries together in a manner of speaking. Expelled from the Janata Dal, Nadar, now state president of the BSP, is all set to contest from Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency. Nalini might not have won the legal battle, yet. But she has inspired many women to speak up — a far bigger victory.