Gang rape victim who was sent to jail for ‘misbehavior’ granted bail after week; Legal Fraternity condemned Court’s action against her

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Amid wide spread media outrage and concern from the legal fraternity across the country, the gangrape survivor from Araria in Bihar, who was arrested on the orders of a judicial magistrate while giving her statement about the incident, was granted bail on Friday. However, the Araria Chief Judicial Magistrate Anand Kumar Singh refused bail to two social workers, who had helped the woman and were arrested with her on July 10.

The 22-year-old survivor was allegedly gang-raped on July 6 after which she sought help from members of Jan Jagran Shakti Sanghtan (JJSS), an Araria-based NGO, with whom she was employed. An FIR was lodged at a women’s police station on July 9, accusing five men for sexually assaulting her. Only one of the men has been arrested so far.

On July 10, when the survivor was recording her statement before the Judicial Magistrate at the Araria District Court, she had requested that Tanmay Nivedita and Kalyani Badola from the JJSS, who had accompanied her to the court, be allowed to help her with her as she was unable to follow the proceedings. When Ms. Nivedita and Ms. Badola urged the judge explain the statement again, the judge got annoyed and ordered the police to take all three into custody. On the judge’s orders, a case was lodged against the three women under IPC sections for obstructing a public servant from discharge of duty, which is punishable with a prison term of two years. The police later sent all three to Dalsinghsarai jail in Samastipur district, 250 kms from Araria.

The JJSS had filed a bail petition for all three women on July 15. “The allegation of misbehaviour with the judge is exaggerated and not stated truthfully. The conduct of the court staff betrays a complete lack of sensitivity to the trauma faced by the survivor. We are dismayed that a desperate cry for help from the survivor was misinterpreted as a personal affront,” said Kamyani Swami of the JJS.

“At the court, before the recording of the statement she was again asked to repeat the details of the crime and later made to stand in a corridor for over four hours where the accused was also standing. All of this led to the survivor eventually having a break down inside the court,” she added.

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Following outrage in the media, the Araria District and Session Judge asked the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) to look into the matter.

“The court of CJM Anand Kumar Singh today heard the case and granted bail to the gang rape survivor on a PR bond while, it rejected bail to two caregivers Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita,” advocate Debu Sen appearing for the girl told The Hindu over phone.

In a statement, the JJSS said, “The bail was given to the survivor on a PR bond which creates a further problem of separation from her primary support persons. It is also putting her through a whole new trauma which is going to be caused by her guilt for being the cause of her support persons being in jail, probably one of the very few people she had trust in and who stood by her in her crisis.”

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Lawyers from across the country on Wednesday denounced the arrest of an alleged gang-rape victim in north Bihar who got booked following a ruckus inside the court premises where she had appeared to get her statement recorded before a magistrate.

In a letter to the chief justice and other judges of the Patna High Court, 376 advocates voiced concern over the manner in which the 22-year-old woman and two social workers accompanying her at a court in Araria district were recently remanded in judicial custody and sent to a jail in Dalsinghsarai, about 240 km away.

The letter, signatories to which include luminaries like Indira Jaisingh, Prashant Bhushan and Vrinda Grover, expressed dismay that when the victim appeared before the magistrate on July 10, the latter took her disoriented state of mind as a personal affront.

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According to Ashish Ranjan Jha, the secretary of Jan Jagran Shakti Sansthan, the Araria-based social organisation to which the victim’s jailed caregivers belonged, the sexual assault took place on July 6.

She had gone out of her home to learn how to ride a motorcycle from an acquaintance. Four of his friends caught hold of her, while the acquaintance ran away, and raped her, as per the FIR she lodged a day later, Jha told PTI over the phone.

She was spotted by workers of the Sansthan who first took her home, but noticing that her family members were unsympathetic, agreed to take her along and look after her while she fought for justice.

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Our workers Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita—accompanied the victim on July 10 when she appeared before the magistrate. Some misunderstanding and communication gap appears to have led to the unfortunate situation thereafter, said Jha.

According to police sources, in the FIR lodged by a court staff against the trio, the victim had grown agitated upon being asked to sign a transcript of the statement and insisted that Kalyani and Nivedita be called in for a perusal of the document.

Later, the social workers too approached the magistrates staff and requested that they be shown a copy of her statement which was turned down citing “legal restrictions” which led to an altercation.

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Miffed over the din, the magistrate is said to have directed a member of the court staff to lodge an FIR against them for contempt of court and under IPC sections for obstructing a public servant from discharge of duty.

A day later, the order remanding them in judicial custody was passed and they were sent off to the Dalsinghsarai jail in Samastipur district.

We sought a legal remedy today when we tried to move an application before the district court only to learn that the premises have been ordered closed for the next seven days in view of the corona outbreak, Jha lamented.

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Meanwhile, the lawyers in their letter alleged that while reporting the matter local dailies ended up divulging details of the victim and that no COVID test was conducted even though she was raped by several strangers.

Notably, Jha said the trio was sent off to the faraway prison because of a corona protocol under which not more than a specified number of people can be kept inside a jail. The reformatory in Araria could, thus, not accommodate them.

We submit that even without going into the various versions of the event that will invariably be brought before your Lordships, there is a need to infuse the incident with some sensitivity and view it from that perspective, the letter said.

It was the fourth day since the incident of gang-rape. The survivor was completely distraught and disoriented and totally dependent, emotionally, on her caregivers who were also exhausted looking after her. We respectfully submit that any perceived disrespect must be viewed from this perspective, it said.

Terming the judicial custody awarded to the survivor and her caregivers excessive and harsh, the letter said the former’s extremely fragile emotional state and separation from her caregivers and incarceration will have an adverse effect on her health.

It has also resulted in the case pertaining to gang-rape having been put on the backburner, while all attention is focused on the alleged contempt.

We pray that your Lordships intervene into the matter as it displays a complete lack of sensitivity to a victim of violent sexual crime and to her caregivers, the lawyers said. 

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