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Belagavi Stripping Incident: Karnataka High Court slams bystanders for "collective cowardice"

By Rintu Mariam      20 December, 2023 11:20 AM      0 Comments
Belagavi Stripping Incident Karnataka High Court slams bystanders for collective cowardice

While hearing the Belgavi stripping case, the Karnataka High Court expressed its shock and made scathing remarks regarding the “collective cowardice” while the incident happened.

Terming the act as “demonic”, a Bench of Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna Dixit observed,

“What is most disturbing is: at the time of this gruesome incident when the victim was tied to an electric pole brutalized and disrobed, there were 50-60 (as per Police Records) persons who were standing as mute spectators. Not even one raised his voice nor the hand to protest. It is a small village of about 8,000 population. What is at the root of penury in our heart is, the collective cowardice coupled with irresponsibility of those who had kept mum when the demonic act was being perpetrated. Can we name them as the passive abators…? We are not sure, the limitations of law being what they are".

Calling it as "disheartening", the Court lamented that no elected member of the Grama Panchayath visited the spot to console the victim and her family. Further, no officials from the Revenue or other Departments thought of seeing the victim, let alone stretching a helping hand.

The Court then correlated this to Article 15.

"....we cannot refrain from observing that the time has come to reshape the measures, may be under the provisions of Article 15 of the Constitution of India, to ensure collective responsibility of the people of towns & villages, if not other units, on the lines what William Bentinck, (1774-1839), a former Governor General of British India had done, for controlling the commission of crimes. Of course, this is a matter which “quarters that be”, should give a serious thought to and take forward"

The Court also appreciated the sole human who swung into action to help the poor victim. Such persons are an asset to the society and asked youngsters to emulate his actions.

"What looks as an oasis in the desert is that, a gentle’Man’, namely, one Mr.Jahangir, a friend of victim’s spouse swung into action and tried to rescue the victim, braving the onslot which he eventually suffered at the hands of assailants. Persons like him are the assets of civil society, and their tribe should swell. Young minds should emulate such actions. A section of society too much selfish & timid is a bane, to say the least. We place on record our deep appreciation for the brave act done by Mr. Jahangir. We request the Assistant Commissioner of Police Mr. S V Girish to hand a copy of this order to him".

The Court was also told that out of 13 assailants, 11 have been apprehended & arrested. However, the Court was irked to find out thay a few of them are women. The Court was assured that the remaining two offenders would be apprehended soon. While expressing that it does not want to monitor the investigation as the CID is looking into it, the Court mentioned that it does not want to "drop this suo moto proceeding half way through" for obvious reasons. The Court will next take up the plea on January 17.

The Court also extended deep appreciation for the concern shown by the Advocate General Shashikiran Shetty and the swift positive response he secured at the hands of the State. "He also made the officials to swing into action swiftly & effectively", the Court noted.

The Bench also specially mentioned the Assistant Commissioner of Police, S.V.Girish, who is personally present in this court along with the Commissioner of Police, Belagavi, Sri.S.N.Siddaramappa. "Their presence & participation assisted the Court.
The presence of Commissioner of Police and the Assistant Commissioner of Police, on the following days of hearing, is dispensed with".

Compensation and land for the Victim, Court told

The Court was apprised of an ex gratia compensation which was awarded to the victim from the Chief Minister’s Fund and that the same has been credited to her Bank Account by RTGS. Also, the Karnataka Maharshi Valmiki Scheduled Tribes Development Corporation Ltd,  Bengaluru, has granted the victim the land over 2 acres in Belagavi District under the land ownership scheme. All the necessary formalities would be completed by December 31 this year and the land would be handed to the victim by January 1, 2024.

With this, the Court added a word of caution. 

"At the same time, we need to caution against the abuse potential of such tall gestures by unscrupulous persons who may shamly enact such incidents to seek fraudulently, benefits of the kind. The State should come to the aid of injured, is laudable. What is even more laudable is, to prevent tapping of such aid by the cheats & fraudsters. More deliberation in this regard is not necessary"

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