CAUGHT IN THE HATHRAS firestorm which has put pressure on the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, an alleged case of rape of two minor sisters in Rajasthan’s Baran district, 275 km from Jaipur, has created a political storm in the Congress-ruled state.
With the BJP mounting an attack on Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and the National Commission for Women on Saturday criticising Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for lack of sensitivity in the Baran case, the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) in Baran appointed a senior advocate to extend legal aid to the family of the minor girls.
“We had received an application from the two minor girls through the Sakhi Kendra in Baran for free legal aid. Following that, we have appointed senior advocate Kamlesh Dubey, who will provide legal aid to the family and will monitor the case until its conclusion,” DLSA Secretary and Additional District and Sessions Judge, Baran, Shiv Kumar told The Sunday Express on Saturday.
In the Baran incident, what attracted the Opposition ire was the rejection by a local court of an application by the family of the minor girls to re-record their statements under Section 164, Code of Criminal Procedure, before a magistrate.
Baran Superintendent of Police Dr Ravi Saturday said the police were now investigating allegation of rape by the family. “The initial FIR was for kidnapping. But when the girls had mentioned alleged involvement of boys in their statements under Section 161 CrPC given to the police, the sections pertaining to rape and POCSO Act were added in the case file. We are investigating the allegations or rape now. We will fully cooperate with the DLSA-appointed advocate, investigate and ensure justice,” he told The Indian Express.
The incident pertains to September 19, when an FIR was registered under sections 363 (kidnapping) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC following a complaint by the father of the two girls who had gone missing. The two boys named by the father on the basis of suspicion were also minors.
On Thursday, Dr Ravi had said the two girls, aged 15 and 13, had not mentioned any sexual assault or any other criminal angle in their statements before the magistrate under Section 164 CrPC. “They had said they went on their own accord. Later, the two of them were presented before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), who counselled them and following that directed them to be sent to a home for women,” he had said.
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The two girls were located by the police in Kota on September 21 and handed over the family after September 24.
Senior advocate Dubey, appointed by the DLSA said under the POCSO Act, even consensual sex with minors was considered rape. Further, a minor’s consent is not a consent in the language of the law, pointed out Rajulben Desai, Member, NCW. “I feel that somewhere the Rajasthan government and the Chief Minister have to understand the issue of sensitivity… In the Baran case, it came up that in the 164 CrPC, she went on her own will. According to law, a consent of a minor is not counted as consent. When will we be aware about it?” she told reporters in Jaipur.
On Thursday, Gehlot termed as “unfortunate” the parallels being drawn between the Baran and Hathras incidents. “…the girls in Baran have themselves said in their statements in front of the magistrate under 164 (CrPC) that no assault on them took place and they went with the boys on their own accord,” he had tweeted in Hindi on Thursday.
In Baran, The Indian Express met the father of the two girls, who said Dubey would speak on the behalf of the family. “It appeared the family is under pressure and is afraid for their safety. As per the DLSA order, I will be monitoring the entire investigation process and will also see if there was any discrepancy during the investigation. After examining all details, we will take a call on if we need to file additional cases,” he said.
The BJP, however, claimed Rajasthan had become the crime capital in the country. “In the past 20 months, lakhs of cases have been registered and a plethora relate to murder, loot, dacoity, rape and gang rape… We demand the intervention of the honourable Governor. We will start our state-wide Halla Bol campaign against the failing law and order situation in Rajasthan on October 5,” said Rajasthan BJP president Satish Poonia.
While the BJP constituted a fact-finding team, a party delegation also met the Superintendent of Police in Baran on Saturday.
When contacted by The Indian Express, the brother of one of the minor accused in the case denied the rape allegations. “My brother didn’t know the girls. He and his friend, who is the co-accused, had gone to Kota on September 18. There they saw the two girls and also their father sitting in a police jeep and hitched a ride back to Baran in the jeep. Later we came to know they’ve filed a case against us. The allegations of rape are baseless. In fact, we were threatened by the girl’s father,” claimed the brother of the accused.
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