India's top court takes over contentious teen rape case

By AFP
Published: August 1, 2019
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NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Thursday ordered a major state to pay compensation to a teenage girl accusing a prominent lawmaker of rape and moved the case to the capital, amid growing calls for authorities to properly address the long-running saga.

The allegations, first raised by the 19-year-old against legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar in Uttar Pradesh state in 2017, have taken on national significance as he was from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

It sparked further public outrage and drew the attention of the Supreme Court this week after the girl was critically hurt when a truck smashed into the car she was travelling in on Sunday, with her family alleging it was arranged by Sengar.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi ordered the national Central Bureau of Investigation, which has assumed jurisdiction of the case from local police, to complete their probe into the crash in seven days.

He set a time limit for the trial process and instructed Uttar Pradesh to pay INR2.5 million ($36,172) to the victim by Friday.

“The trial in the case shall commence forthwith on a day-to-day basis and the trial shall be completed within 45 days,” Gogoi said.

Sengar, a four-term legislator, was only expelled from the party on Thursday after public pressure on the state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath, a BJP stalwart, to take action.

The girl’s family has been beset by a string of tragedies, with two of her aunts dying in the crash and her lawyer also critically injured.

Her father was detained by police last year and severely beaten in custody, allegedly by Sengar’s brother, and later died from his injuries.

The teenager also tried to set herself on fire outside Adityanath home.

Sengar — whose case has become an embarrassment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party — has been in jail since last year and denies the allegations.

The events have sparked protests and parliament walkouts, and highlighted the apparent impunity enjoyed by the powerful in India’s patriarchal society.

The court’s orders were welcomed by rights activists, with Swati Maliwal of the Delhi Commission of Women tweeting: “The girl would have never got justice in Uttar Pradesh. We will help her fight the case in Delhi.”

The world’s largest democracy has an abysmal record on sexual crime against women, particularly in rural areas where the majority of the 1.3-billion population lives.

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