Are we going back to 17th century, asks anguished HC on case of woman paraded naked

Expressing anguish, the High Court of Karnataka has termed the incident of a woman being paraded naked in a village in Belagavi district as an “extraordinary case” and said “it will have extraordinary treatment at our hands”.

The woman was allegedly assaulted, paraded naked and tied to an electric pole after her son eloped with a girl who was to get engaged with someone else, in the early hours of December 11.

A division bench also summoned the Police Commissioner of Belagavi along with the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) to be personally present in the court on December 18 to file an additional report.

The Advocate General on Thursday placed a memo and some documents about the action taken on the incident before the division bench of Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit.

The Court however said the report was falling short. The “least we can say is that we are not satisfied with the way things took place post the incident. AG seeks some time to submit additional reports. Accordingly, learned AG is permitted to place on record an additional status report on Monday,” the bench ordered.

When the AG submitted that the ACP was investigating the matter, the HC directed the Commissioner and the ACP to be present and file the additional report. The HC has also directed that the assailants should be arrested immediately.

Taking serious exception to the incident, the HC observed: “This is a shame to all of us. We cannot expect this situation after 75 years of freedom. It is a question for us, are we going into the 21st century or going back to the 17th century?

“Are we going to see equality or progressiveness or are we going back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Our anguish makes us use such harsh words. We are exceeding but we can’t help. We feel the least we can do is express our anguish in some harsh words,” the bench said.

The HC further observed that “This (incident) will be affecting the future generation. Are we creating a society where there is a chance to dream for a better future or we are creating a society where somebody will feel it is better to die than to live? Where there is no respect for a lady.”

During the arguments, the HC noted that the accused were also from the SC/ST Community and therefore the case does not attract provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

On December 12, the HC had taken suo motu cognisance of the incident based on news reports.

During the hearing on Thursday, the HC said a dangerous precedent is being set that there is no fear of law. “A dangerous signal is being sent that there is no fear of law. If this happens in Karnataka which is a progressive state, this is unfortunate after independence. No fear of the law is very very disturbing,” the Court said.

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The Court said it was speechless that the Women’s Commission was not in the picture yet.

“With a very heavy heart we have to say that the Commission for Women acts on what somebody says in a TV debate but when this is done where is the commission? Have they taken cognisance? Any women’s rights or human rights commission have done anything? No personal visit to the spot or family. We are speechless what can we say.”

The Court said it was an extraordinary case and it will get “extraordinary treatment at our hands.” Since the accused is absconding, the HC said, “Tell your inspector not to have lunch and dinner till he is arrested.”

The HC also directed the AG to check if there is any compensation scheme available for the victim-woman. “Come up with some monetary scheme for this lady and her family,” it said.

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