The Supreme Court on Friday took suo motu cognisance of the gruesome incident of a gang-rape of a 20-year-old tribal woman by 13 villagers in West Bengal’s Birbhum district and ordered the district judge to file a report on the incident within a week.
As soon as the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam assembled for the hearing, it expressed shock over the incident, which has grabbed headlines, and took cognisance of the matter.
The report has to be filed by the Birbhum judge within seven days after visiting the site, about 200 kilometers from Kolkata, the bench also comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and MY Eqbal said.
The gang-rape of the woman, a construction worker, was allegedly ordered by a village head at a kangaroo court in Labhpur, about 200 km from Kolkata, as punishment for falling in love with a man from a different religion. The duo were caught, tied to a tree and assaulted after which they were asked to pay a fine of Rs50,000. The gang-rape took place after the woman expressed her inability to pay the amount.
On Friday, the victim was examined by a medical team at the Suri hospital. Hospital sources said her condition was stable.
Taken aback by criticism by the media for its ham-handed handling of the case, the state police meanwhile got all the 13 accused, including the morol (community chief) Balai Murdy, in its own custody till February 6 in place of the judicial custody secured on Thursday.
The police sought their remand since the rope with which the woman and her lover were tied to a tree and beaten and the clothes they were wearing at the time of the incident on January 21 at Labhpur were not found.
Meanwhile, the state administration have directed all district administrations to prevent holding of any salishi sabhas. A section of the tribal community claimed such holding of courts are alien to culture of them and said there were influences of local political leaders in this instances.
This could turn into a major embarrassment for state chief minister Mamata Banerjee as the victim’s father told media that local Trinamool leaders like Ajay Mandal, Sujit and Babu Bagdi were actively involved in deciding how to punish the girl.