Updated: August 6, 2022 11:38:24 pm
A SPECIAL court in Varanasi on Saturday acquitted Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Atul Rai in an alleged rape case of a 24-year-old woman, who, along with her friend, died by suicide in front of the Supreme Court in August last year. The woman had registered a rape case against Rai in 2019.Rai, who is MP from Ghosi, is lodged in Naini jail.
The woman and her friend, also a prime witness in the case, had immolated themselves outside the Supreme Court in August last year, after alleging harassment. Despite his acquittal in the rape case, Rai’s lawyer Anuj Yadav told the media that the MP would remain in jail in the pending case of abetment to suicide registered in Lucknow.
“Additional District and Session Judge Siyaram Chaurasia today (Saturday) acquitted Atul Rai of rape charge on grounds of benefit of doubt. The court examined nine prosecution witnesses and a few of them did not fully support the prosecution theory,” said government counsel Jyoti Shankar Upadhyay.
He added that the court also examined 15 witnesses of the defence.
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Rai’s younger brother Pawan Kumar Singh said that it was now proved that the MP was “falsely implicated” in the rape case. “I request the state government to take strict action against the people who framed my brother,” said Singh.
Atul Rai contested election on a BSP ticket while he was in jail and emerged victorious.
When contacted, the victim’s lawyer said they would file an appeal against the Varanasi court’s judgment in the Allahabad High Court.
According to the prosecution, the case dates back to 2019 when the woman filed a police complaint alleging that Rai had been allegedly sexually harassing her for nearly a year. She alleged that the first incident occurred in 2018 when she had visited the MP’s apartment in Varanasi to meet his family members, including his wife.
The woman also complained that Rai allegedly recorded the sexual assault and threatened to circulate it on social media if she goes to the police. Later, on the basis of a complaint filed by the woman, a case was lodged against Rai on several charges, including rape and criminal intimidation, in May 2019 in Varanasi. The police also invoked provisions of the Information and Technology Act against him. On June 22, 2019, Rai surrendered before a court that sent him to judicial custody.
On August 16 last year, the woman and her 27-year-old friend first went live on Facebook minutes before setting themselves on fire and narrated their ordeal outside the top court. The duo also accused the Uttar Pradesh Police of supporting Rai.
The woman alleged that senior police officers were not acting on their complaint. Criminal cases under various charges, including forgery, were registered against woman. In the [Facebook Live] video, the duo claimed that “threats and harassment” had led them to take the extreme step. They also alleged that a retired IPS officer, Amitabh Thakur, helped Rai and harassed them. The woman and her friend died at a hospital while undergoing treatment.
The state government formed a two-member panel in August to look into the allegations levelled by the woman in the video.
Later, the Uttar Pradesh Police booked Rai and Thakur for abetment to suicide. A case was lodged against Rai and Thakur at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow. Thakur was forced to retire by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in March last year in “public interest”. Thakur was arrested in the case in Lucknow. He is presently out on bail.
Another case of abetment to suicide was filed against a retired deputy superintendent of police, Amresh Kumar Singh Baghel.
Police said that Baghel, who was then posted as a circle officer in Varanasi district, had submitted an inquiry report in the rape case which favoured BSP MP. Baghel was arrested on various charges including abetment of suicide of a rape survivor and her friend, who had set themselves on fire outside the Supreme Court and succumbed to their burns subsequently.
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