OVER NINE years after some women were attacked at a pub in Mangalore, all the available accused, including Sri Ram Sena founder Pramod Muthalik, have been acquitted as none of the victims turned up in court to testify against their attackers.
Citing lack of evidence, a judicial magistrate’s court on Monday acquitted 26 of the 30 persons accused in the daylight attack on women at the Amnesia Pub, in the heart of Mangalore city, on January 24, 2009. Of the remaining four accused, three — Subhash Shetty, Dheeraj and Pavan — are alleged to be absconding, while the fourth, Ashwin, is reported to be dead.
The outcome of the case was anticipated since none of the girls who were attacked gave statements during the investigation or trial. Hence, Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (outraging the modesty of a woman) could not be invoked in the case. The attack on the pub was claimed by both the Sri Rama Sena and the Bajrang Dal as their effort to protect Hindu culture from western influences.
The visuals of the attack, which were captured by camera crews invited by the attackers to the pub, showed the men storming the pub and attacking young revellers who had gathered for a birthday party — some young girls were dragged by their attackers. The accused included people who filmed the attack.
Besides Muthalik, his one time close associate Prasad Attavar, who is also accused in several other cases including extortion, and Subhash Padil, a Mangalore activist, were also accused in the case.
While there was public outrage over the attack, none of the victims came out in the open to speak about their trauma. Some of their parents and friends spoke on the condition of anonymity to media outlets.
“After the attack, not a single girl came forward and reported the incident. What prevented them from doing their duty? Now, they say these people are being acquitted. Let me tell you, if one of them was convicted, it would have been a deterrent to crimes like this,’’ said senior advocate Asha Nayak, who, incidentally, represented many of the accused in the course of the case.
Meanwhile, Muthalik said he was wrongly arrested in the case. “When the incident happened, I was in Pune. Later, when I reached Belagavi, I was arrested,’’ he said.
The Karnataka government has indicated its intent to file an appeal after studying the acquittal order. Many Mangalore civil society groups have also called for an appeal against the verdict.