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A year later, no headway in Murthal gangrape case despite continuous HC pressure

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 1 March 2017, 19:50 IST
(Malik Sajad/ Catch News)

A year after being reported, matters concerning the Murthal gangrape have not progressed in any way. 

Taking note, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has continued to exert pressure on the Haryana government to identify those responsible for the heinous crime which took place during the height of the Jat reservation stir one year ago.

In its latest round of firing, the High Court has said that it has reason to believe that Sonepat additional sessions judge Gagan Geet Kaur is being “pressured”.

‘Mere eyewash’

Though the Division Bench of Justice SS Saron and Justice Darshan Singh refused to elaborate, it has pointed out the difference in the stand of the team investigating the matter before the court in Sonepat and before the High Court.

While the investigating team reportedly told the High Court that the investigations into the gangrapes were on, it had told the Sonepat court that the offence under Section 376 (D) stood deleted.

The Bench, on a previous date, had referred to a report by the Sonepat additional sessions judge to say she had asserted that the probe was a “mere eyewash” and the chapter of gangrape had been closed.

The peculiarities of the case

On 18 January, the Court had once again emphasised that the rape allegation was not baseless and the government was duty bound to trace and book the culprits. It categorically asked the state government not to take refuge in the plea that there were no reliable witnesses or culprits. 

In fact, the most peculiar aspect of the case is this: while the Court may have categorically asked the government to probe the matter and bring the guilty to book, the law and order enforcing agencies have not been able to trace even the victims.

The case

The gangrape theory got credence when two witnesses Bobby Joshi and Raj Kumar gave statements saying that they had seen women being dragged away to the fields near Sukhdev Dhaba on the National Highway. There were also reports of some torn undergarments recovered by the police from the same fields. 

Initially, there was an attempt to show that these garments were from some women from a nomadic tribe of ironsmiths. Sources disclosed that when this theory was contradicted, the police got the DNA mapping conducted on five suspects who had been booked for arson and violence.

But when that report came out to be negative, it apparently led to the 'deletion' of 376(D) charge.

HC takes charge

In its interim order on 18 January, the Court said that the impression given by the supplementary police report filed on 26 October last year was that the charges under Sections 376(D) (gangrape) and 365 (kidnapping or abduction) of the Indian Penal Code had been dropped and in fact it is mentioned as deleted. 

The Court had directed the police authorities to file an affidavit to clarify the position in the trial court that investigation insofar as allegations of rape and kidnapping under Sections 376(D) and 365 IPC are concerned have not been dropped and are continuing.

Twists and turns

The case has come through various twists and turns over the last one year. So far, the government has failed to come out with anything concrete.

It all began with the state police being in denial mode once the matter was reported by a regional daily. But once the High Court took suo motu cognisance and the pressure came from the civil society a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was set up.

But till now neither have any victims turned up nor have any accused being taken to task. The claims of a woman from Delhi who had come up with an initial statement in the matter were found to be unsubstantiated, as were the claims of a Delhi based journalist who 'cooked up' a report in the matter. 

A message from one of the alleged victims, a NRI from Australia, also did the rounds on the social media, but even that could not be substantiated.

The concerns of the Court

The Court has also expressed its concern over purported assurances on withdrawal of cases registered in connection with the Jat reservation agitation last year. It has also reportedly expressed its desire to refer to the CBI 2,000-plus FIRs registered in connection with the Jat agitation.

In all, over 2,000 cases were registered in connection with the Jat agitation

The Court is of the view that the cases could be withdrawn by following the due process of law where offence was not made out against the accused. It as pointed that the impression should not go out that the cases are being withdrawn under pressure. 

These are two of the major demands of the Jats who have once again launched an agitation this year. The Manohar Lal Khattar led BJP government in the state is in a fix over the withdrawal of cases. 

Its own advocate general, Baldev Raj Mahajan, has conveyed that the cases being probed by the CBI cannot be withdrawn by the state government. Even in other cases, any move by the government to withdraw the cases faces the threat of the aggrieved parties approaching the courts.

Edited by Aleesha Matharu

First published: 1 March 2017, 19:50 IST