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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Unnao shows how political power can undermine justice

While an FIR has been registered against Sengar and the case been handed over to CBI, an independent probe — perhaps monitored by a higher court through an amicus curiae — is needed. Unnao is a test of both humanity and law.

editorials Updated: Jul 30, 2019 18:45 IST

Hindustan Times
People protest against the rape of a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, in Bengaluru, April 13, 2018
People protest against the rape of a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, in Bengaluru, April 13, 2018(REUTERS)
         

The Unnao rape case will go down in Indian history as an emblematic one, because it exemplifies every issue that lies at the heart of the political and legal infirmities in the system. It has brought to light the brutality a young woman encounters in large parts of India; it has shown the long struggle a marginalised citizen faces in even registering a case against a powerful figure; it has exposed how political power can undermine even the basic tenets of legal procedure; it has shown the moral hollowness of the political establishment. And now, it has, to the utter shock of the rest of the country, displayed the possible willingness of the accused to eliminate all shreds of evidence, including through the use of violence, against the victim and witnesses.

The facts of the Unnao case are now well-known. The survivor accused Kuldip Singh Sengar, a Bharatiya Janata Party Member of the Legislative Assembly, and his brother, of rape in June 2017. While the police recorded her statement, they did not name the assailant. In April 2018, her father was allegedly assaulted by Sengar’s supporters, arrested, and died. It was only after the survivor attempted to immolate herself in front of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence that the issue gained public attention. A public outcry followed, an FIR was registered, and the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). While Sengar was arrested, so was the survivor’s uncle for an older case. Earlier this week, when the survivor was on her way to meet her uncle in prison, a truck collided with her car, killing two aunts she was travelling with. She and her lawyer were left in a critical condition.

Till an investigation is complete, it would be wrong to attribute the accident to a conspiracy. But what is known is the following. Sengar had the motivation; he had the facilities from inside prison to organise such an exercise; the survivor had felt threatened and written to authorities; and security guards meant to protect thesurvivor had reportedly been in touch with Sengar and his associates. The fact that the truck was reportedly owned by a Samajwadi Party politician adds to the murkiness. While an FIR has been registered against Sengar and the case been handed over to CBI, an independent probe — perhaps monitored by a higher court through an amicus curiae — is needed. Unnao is a test of both humanity and law.

First Published: Jul 30, 2019 18:43 IST

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