The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court dismissed a habeas corpus petition filed by a lawyer who alleged that two tribal girls were sexually assaulted by C-60 commandos on the night of January 20.
The bench of Justices BR Gavai and Indira Jain disposed off the petition after speaking to these girls in-chamber. These two girls are illiterate and cannot speak Hindi or Marathi and hence communicated through their brother. Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Counsel Gayatri Singh vehemently argued that both the girls were under tremendous pressure by the police and would not speak the truth.
When asked the two women denied any assault by the police and alleged that they were compelled to falsely accuse the police officers by activist Shila Gota, who is the ex-Sarpanch of Gatta village. Both the women expressed their desire to go back to their village.
The order which strangely names the two girls, states- “Our observations of their facial expressions also does not show that they are speaking under any coercion or threat.”
What Does The Petition Say
In the petition filed on January 25, apprehension has been expressed that these girls are illiterate and they come from an area where the police and the naxals are feared equally. Hence it was highly likely that the two girls would change their statements.
It was alleged that on January 20 at 4 pm the two girls were detained by C-60 commandos and were taken to the forest where they were reportedly raped. The next morning, the two girls were dropped at their relative’s place and were given Rs.100 each.
Following this, the two girls narrated what happened to activists Shila Gota and Sushila Narote. Then after gathering women from the village, they all went to the Gatta police Station demanding action against the guilty officials. The statements of both the girls were recorded.
Police assured the activists that action will be taken and took the girls for medical examination. However, on January 22 when the said women went to police station to bring back the two girls, police refused any information on girls and stated that they do not have those girls with them anymore. Women from nearby areas gathered around the police station and sat on adharna. Then the station in-charge said the girls had been taken to Gadchiroli.
When people from the village went to Gadchiroli hospital, they saw the two girls there however there was heavy police deployment at the hospital. None of the relatives of the victims were allowed to meet the girls. Thereafter it was declared by senior officials that the girls were not raped.
After all this happened, the girls were accompanied by activists to Nihal Singh Rathod’s office in Nagpur.
In a shocking development, they were abducted from Nihal Singh Rathod’s office at 4:30 pm on January 28 by Gadchiroli police dressed in plain clothes but the FIR was registered at 2:25 am on January 29, almost 10 hours later.
What Does The FIR Say
According to the FIR lodged, when asked what happened, the girls stated that they were brought to Napur and Kaale coat waale shab ne poocha kya hua? (The man in the black coat asked us what happened) Toh humne bataya ki humko police ne kuch nai kiya (We replied that the police did not do anything to us)
What The Court Failed to Examine
Although a habeas corpus petition was filed seeking immediate release of the two girls, Rathod sought liberty to file a detailed petition but the court asked him file an affidavit on Sunday. However, before a detailed petition could be filed and all the issues raised could be examined, court passed yesterday’s order disposing off the petition.
Speaking to Livelaw, Nihal Singh Rathod said- “Although I am happy that the two girls are safe for now and can go back to their village. I am deeply aggrieved that the court did not examine any of the facts presented before it through various documents that were annexed in the petition.
The message goes out loud and clear that lawyer’s chambers are no longer safe. Even during the emergency a lawyer’s chamber was safe.
When we asked the two girls what was the medical examination that was done, they said there blood test was done. That is it, nothing else. What kind of medical examination is this!”
This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.