Wadakkancherry Gangrape: Why Wasn’t Legal Recourse Sought?

The actual impact that social media can have on an event has been exhibited over the last few days. A Facebook post by dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi describing a heinous incident that took place in a 30-year-old woman’s life has raised many eyebrows.
According to the post, Bhagyalakshmi says that the woman and her husband approached her and narrated an incident wherein the woman was brutally raped by four of her husband’s friends two years ago. The woman is now being threatened by them with the videos of the same. The gang allegedly includes Wadakkanchery Municipal Councillor Jayanthan P.N. and three others – Bineesh, Jineesh, and Shibu. When asked why she didn’t move legally, the woman said that the police officers misbehaved with her when she approached them with a complaint and therefore she withdrew her complaint as she was not ready to take the mental stress that the police was making her go through. Bhagyalakshmi took to Facebook to explain the unfortunate plight of rape victims in India and the way they are treated by the police.
Bhagyalakshmi, who was moved by the incident, also called a press conference in order to bring this unfortunate incident to the notice of the public. Prima facie, what she did can be applauded, as she realised her duty towards society and the need to bring out a crime that allegedly took place. However, at a more closer look, the links in the story seem misplaced. Was arranging a press conference the appropriate way to take action? Such an incident, if taken place, has to be dealt with extreme care and seeking strong legal recourse would have brought in a transparent probe in the issue.
Explaining her take on the issue, Bhagyalakshmi says, “As a social being, I am proud of what I did. She is only one among thousands of women who have been raped and are forced to keep their mouths shut. I wanted to bring this brutal crime out in front of the public and the mental truma the woman going through, in which I
think I am successful.”
When asked if she is sure about the authenticity of the story Bhagyalakshmi says that she has been meeting different kinds of people all these years and can very well understand if a person is lying, “at least if a woman says that she has been raped”.
Also she is of the opinion that it is not her duty to check with Jayanthan or any of the other accused if such an
incident has indeed occurred as she is not the investigating officer.
“I just acted as a voice for a woman who does not have the guts to raise her voice in public and tell what she is going through and plead for justice. I have done my job and police has taken over the case. Now it is their duty to do the rest,” she added.
The victim had said that she had to undergo mental torture and insults when she first tried to file a complaint. So the question is why has she again agreed to cooperate with the police? Wasn’t consulting a lawyer the first thing that could have been done? The victim could have directly approached the judiciary and put forward her grievances.
As the issue has gone viral, it is receiving mixed comments from people. Sangeetha Lakshmana, a prominent advocate, has raised questions on the legitimacy of the issue. She has also written a post on her Facebook page that is forcing people to look at the other side of the story as well.
Speaking to The Kochi Post, she said,”I am not convinced with the way things have surface and any person who has at least a minute amount of legal knowledge would have handled this matter in a much more serious manner. First of all I don’t understand why it occured to the woman after two years that Bhagyalakshmi is the appropriate person to talk to in this matter as there are many private and government organisations in our State that would have taken up this issue and done the needful. And if she was afraid of doing that then filing a private complaint to the Magistrate was also a definite solution. Without doing all this she has approached the dubbing artist and she has in turn conducted a press conference and made frenzy out of the issue. The artist is not a leading social worker or a person who has any experience in dealing with such social issues. Therefore, the foremost thing that she could have done was to discuss the matter with an experienced lawyer and provide the assurance to the woman about what all can be done legally. Instead, conducting a press conference and speaking about the situation of women in our country and them being denied justice is nothing but exhibition of the useless ego and feminism that is filled in their minds. Above all, I also heard the woman saying at the press conference that she does not want any complaint to be registered. In that case, I don’t understand why all this unnecessary hype is being created.”
The issue, however, has escalated to a level where DGP Loknath Behera has ordered a probe into the allegations against the police officials over their misbehaviour with the woman. Peramangalam Police Circle Inspector M.V. Manikandan has denied the woman’s charge that the police had tried to help the accused in the case.
“The police department functions to ensure security to the public and we will never get to a level where we ask such absurd and insulting questions to a woman who is already going through a mental trauma,” he says.
The CI refused to comment further as he says the investigation is going on and it would be inappropriate for him to make any comment on the situation. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also assured that strict action would be taken if the allegations are proven.
Meanwhile, Jayanthan has been suspended from the CPI(M). However, the councillor, in his defence, has said that the woman was levelling the allegations because he had sought the return of the money her husband had borrowed from him in 2014.
The case has also become an example of how insensitive a politician could be in such a situation. CPI(M) Thrissur secretary K. Radhakrishnan was spotted revealing the name of the victim a number of times when he announced the party’s decision to suspend Jayanthan. The MLA has been accussed of deliberately doing this claiming that if Jayanthan’s  name can be revealed so can the woman’s name.
Mr. Radhakrishnan’s action cannot be justified in any way as it violates section 228 A of the IPC. According to the Supreme Court’s guidelines on protecting the identity of rape victim, this is a non-bailable offence and can result in imprisonment that may be extended to two years.
This issue has been complicated from the start and the surprising part is that the woman has still not approached the Court with a complaint. If things are not the way they seem then it is serious defamation on the woman’s part. If the incidents are true then the culprits are to be given strict punishment and it is the responsibility of the government to speed up the process irrespective of the political positions the accused hold.
Main photograph is a screengrab of a video via Media One.
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