Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXVIII No. 24, April 1-15, 2019

Anonymous telephone callers

by F. V. Arul, I.P., Deputy Inspector General of Police, C.I.D. & Railways (later IG of Police, Government of Tamil Nadu).

Some famous crimes recorded in various Tamil Nadu police journals.

Just as there are Peeping Toms there is also a class of being, happily too rare, who apparently finds a certain amount of gratification by indulging in lewd talk with members of the opposite sex taking cowardly refuge behind a telephone. These perverted people apparently think that by taking advantage of this modern means of communication they can escape detection. They are, however, unaware of the advance of science which now makes it possible for them to be apprehended flagrante delicto. The scientific means of such detection are the police control room and the two-way radio communication system installed in Police patrol cars.

Let us take a look at two cases of such anonymous telephone callers who persistently rang up lady subscribers and outraged their modesty by their indecent talk. In the first case, a Dr. (Miss) Sakuntala of Madras City lodged a complaint that a certain person, who refused to divulge his telephone number or his real identity but whose voice she could recognise, was repeatedly telephoning her at intervals of four to five days in the mornings between 7-8 a.m. and in the evenings between 9-10 p.m. making indecent overtures to her as well as to her sister who is a lecturer in the Queen Mary’s College, Madras. As it was clear that the only offence that could be made out was one under section 509 I.P.C., which is non-cognisable, no case was actually registered on receipt of the complaint. However, steps were taken by the police to detect the offender while in the very act of committing the offence so that advantage could be taken of section 155 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Commissioner of Police, Madras, being competent to issue orders to register and investigate such cases.

The steps that were taken to achieve this result were as follows:

The Executive Engineer of the Madras Telephone Department was contacted and apprised of the situation. He was asked to instruct his staff to keep a watch on the telephone number of Sakuntala particularly during the hours 7-8 a.m. and 9-10 p.m. to find out from which telephone number such calls were received. By such watch it was soon ascertained that the anonymous caller was using the public telephone booth located in front of the High Court buildings, Esplanade, Madras. A parallel connection to the lady doctor’s telephone was then drawn to an ex-directory telephone in the Police Control Room at Egmore, Madras. The control room is the nerve centre of a system of telephone as well as a two-way radio communication which controls the operation in various parts of Madras City of a fleet of wireless patrol cars. For the purpose of this case one patrol car was disguised in the nature of a “Q” car, as used by Scotland Yard and ordered to patrol in the vicinity of the public telephone booth opposite the High Court buildings during the hours referred to above.

After a week or so the anonymous caller resumed his cowardly activities and a radio message was immediately flashed from the Control Room to the “Q” car which rushed to the spot but found that the anonymous caller had rung off and had left the booth. Two more unsuccessful attempts were made in the course of the next ten days. Lack of success was due to the fact that the conversation engaged in by the anonymous caller was very brief. The lady doctor was therefore contacted and briefed that she should draw the anonymous caller into a conversation even though her interlocutor used the most filthy language so that the police could have a minute or two to rush up to the spot and catch her tormentor red-handed. Accordingly, the lady doctor feigned interest in the conversation the next time, the anonymous caller rang her number and this time the “Q” car got up to the telephone booth on receiving the wireless message from the Control Room. The Police Sergeant of the “Q” car gently opened the door of the telephone booth so as not to disturb the miscreant, snatched the receiver from him and announced his identity to the lady doctor who was still on the line. The latter was naturally overjoyed at the success of the operation and expressed her thanks profusely.

The accused was one K.P. Rajaram, aged 22, who was employed as clerk in the Government Co-operative Engineering Workshop, Madras. He was prosecuted under section 509 I.P.C., in the Court of the IV Presidency Magistrate, who in convicting and sentencing him to pay a fine of Rs. 200 observed that the accused had doubtless committed an anti-social act and that the police had acted cleverly in detecting him. A record of the conversation between the accused and the lady doctor was made by the telephone operator at the telephone board in the Telephone House which was duly filed during the trial and was admitted as evidence. Incidentally, this perverted young man was dismissed from service after his conviction.

Some six months later there was another complaint from one Mr. Zinna that an unknown person was frequently telephoning his residence during the hours he was away in office and was insulting his wife by making the most indecent suggestions to her.

With the co-operation of the telephone department, it was soon ascertained that the anonymous caller was using the telephone of the Madras Medical College Hostel. On further watch, it was found that this caller was annoying several ladies whose names were found in the Telephone Directory. Similar technical arrangements as in the previous case were made and with the cooperation of Mrs. Zinna, who was asked to prolong the conversation however distasteful it was, the anonymous caller was soon apprehended.

The accused in this case was one T. Lawrence, a telephone boy of the Medical College Hostel. He was prosecuted in the Court of the VII Presidency Magistrate. He was duly convicted and sentenced to four months R.I.

Wide publicity was given to these cases in the press which apparently had a salutary effect for there have been no such complaints since.

This article was written in 1955.

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