A pressing call for justice
Status quo endured by the rape victim must be broken by Supreme Court for the sake of justice
Two years, more than 25 complaints, lives of family members and a fatal accident is what cost the Unnao rape victim in her bold pursuit for justice, abiding by the system and its so-called norms, and still no sign of justice. The recent accident which landed the rape victim and her lawyer on a ventilator stirred the national conscience impinging a unanimous cry for justice. It was not that a new rape case had been brought to light but an old one which had never reached its conclusion but taken adverse steps on victim's part as her enduring faith in the system was rewarded with incessant hiccups of inconsistency amounting to only injustice. Her plight while striving for justice is evident by losses she had to withstand, as an unmoved system watched. So when the state police could not live up to the victim's confidence, the only alternative knocking doors of the highest court in the land. While the UP BJP clarified that the accused, MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar has been suspended by the party, there has been no concrete step taken to bring him to justice. As the victim's uncle alleged in the FIR filed by UP Police, there stands a possibility of Sengar engineering the accident to eliminate the victim based on the information about the victim's travel plan to Rae Bareilly jail to see her uncle. In fact, the grease on the number plate and the trajectory of the truck which hit the victim's car on the wrong side at high speed points at conspiracy. However, the Uttar Pradesh Police "prima facie" found the unfortunate incident as nothing more than an accident. Not just this but when the UP Police filed an FIR in this accident matter, the truck driver and owner were not named in the accused list which remains inexplicable.
The strange revelation of an unread letter written to the Chief Justice of India by the victim's mother on July 12 stirred matters even further. The CJI clarified how the letter was not placed before him and demanded an immediate report on why the letter reached the court but not him. The letter largely stressed on the threats and danger to the victim and her family's lives allegedly by the accused persons in the case. There was a transfer petition also filed to this length by the victim's mother before the Supreme Court in January as she had lost the confidence of a fair trial in UP. Mishaps due to which the letter did not reach CJI in time nearly cost the victim her life, though she lost her two aunts with her lawyer on the ventilator. There is a clear understanding that had the top court taken cognisance of the letter, the near-fatal accident near Rae Bareilly could have been averted. This calls for a thorough investigation in the failure to produce the letter in front of CJI while a petition on the mishandling of Unnao case stands scheduled in the top court today. While the court must take stern action in the matter, the mishandling of the Unnao case opens up darker realities of the state administration and justice machinery. Another very surprising factor that has been revealed is the absence of CBI court no. 4 in Lucknow where the Unnao case was to be heard. It has been reported that the judge presiding over the case–in which the CBI had filed the charge sheet against Senger back in July 2018–was transferred in April 2019. The fact that trial is yet to start gives a shocking blow to the reputation and sanctity of the justice machinery which had taken cognisance of the case. In the light of these developments, the letter written to CJI becomes all the more important as it was the penultimate cry for justice and also a cautionary note that worse could happen–which eventually did–if status quo was held.
Now that the matter has reached the corridors of the highest court, the nation anticipates firm directives from the Supreme Court to both the state as well as CBI in fast-tracking the probe so that concrete steps to justice can be taken. Such failure of the system only highlights the misery of commoners for whom courts are the sole source of justice. But here, even the judiciary took a back step as no hearing was initiated despite the CBI charge sheet being filed in July last year. In fact, CBI special court number 4 does not even exist much to everyone's surprise. Questions surface as to where is this court and why has the trial not begun? If there is no court, why isn't the case assigned to another special court? The delay has only resulted in a much-complicated picture where now the victim battles for her life as the accused remains in judicial custody with no action taken by the party except a mere suspension which the party claims was pronounced last year. CBI has filed an FIR in the matter and investigation is on to probe abetment and conspiracies in the accident. Since the matter now rests in front of the Supreme Court, CBI's investigation should lead to some form of conclusion because the last time when its investigation was called upon, no conclusive outcome was to be seen as the case was severely mishandled on the judicial front. Today's proceedings will throw light on future steps as it will bring the glaring errors in the case till now to the surface. It is important for the Supreme Court to come down heavily upon the state judiciary for such negligence. Taking a suo motu cognisance of the letter which sought protection from the threats and intimidation by the accused person through his henchmen is only the first of many steps that the SC at this need of hour is required to take. The letter also states that a video-recording which outlines criminal intimidation has been annexed with the letter that will be of aid in the judicial proceeding hereafter.
Unnao rape case brings spine-chilling realities to the forefront. If the threats received by the victim and her family are to be brought into consideration, UP draws a dismal picture of power misuse. Threats from the circle of the accused legislator and his cronies only point towards the atrocities that common people have to endure against those in powerful shoes. Should they be proven true, it will bear a mark on the state government as well as the party that failed to act upon such injustice. SC's intervention remains the sole way to restore public confidence in the system that has allegedly failed the victim, impinging severe misery. Right from the judicial proceeding that never began in the special court in Lucknow to the letter written by the victim's mother that never reached the CJI, despite reaching the SC a fortnight ago, there seems to be a chain of events not in favour of the rape victim much to her misery. What the court will now have to find out is whether this chain of events was the work of those who stand accused in the case besides uncovering inconsistencies that have till now marred it and in the process, prevented the victim from getting justice. It should be kept in mind that while pursuing justice for the victim, SC will be plying to restore the dwindling public faith in the system and the judiciary.