Almost a year after The Tribune first reported that several women were raped in Murthal during the Jat agitation, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has said that statements from witnesses and the recovery of women's undergarments suggest that such a crime had occurred.
On Thursday, the High Court asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to find the culprits and to file an affidavit before the trial court that rape charges had not been dropped, The Times of India reported today.
The High Court observation's followed a complaint by senior advocate Anupam Gupta, accusing the SIT of working in an unprofessional manner and being in a hurry to close the case.
During the Jat agitation in February, last year, The Tribune reported that women passengers were dragged out of their vehicles and allegedly raped in fields near the National Highway in Murthal. Witnesses said that survivors were told by "senior officers" not to pursue the matter because it would shame them, and "what had happened could not be undone," the newspaper had reported at the time.
The newspaper reported that at least 30 goons attacked commuters heading to the National Capital Region, and set their vehicles on the fire, but women who could not flee were pulled out, stripped and raped.
While several media outlets followed up, the Haryana police insisted that no such crime had occurred. But the police were forced to file an FIR and set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter when the Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo moto cognizance of the case.
During the hearing on Thursday, the High Court disapproved of the word "delete" used by the SIT before the trial court when it came to Section 376D of the Indian Penal Code, observing that it gave the impression of the gang rape charge being dropped, The Tribune reported. Gupta said, "The effort was to hold out to the entire world that the offence of rape was no longer valid."
Gupta asked why the police had appeared in Murthal on the intervening night of 22-23 February. "Let their call details be examined. Why did the IGP and SSP arrive at dead of night? It cries for an answer," he said. "The case must go to the CBI."
In July, last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said that there is "no doubt" that this horrific crime did take place when the state was besieged by Jat violence.
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