The gang-rape of a 17-year-old girl in Hyderabad has set off outrage and political clashes after it came to fore that some of the accused are related to politicians and politically influential families. In the latest update, the minor son of a MLA of the AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) has been named as an accused. In all six accused — one adult and five minors — are now all in custody.
Amid the row triggered over the connection of the accused with politicians, BJP MLA Raghunandan Rao on June 4 leaked the video of the survivor with the accused in a car.
The video, showing the accused involved in sexual activity with the minor girl, was shared on social media and was also aired by some news channels. Rao has been booked for disclosing the identity of the survivor after case was registered at the Abids police station, while he maintained that he shared the video as an evidence of the incident without revealing the face or the identity of the minor survivor. .
The incident took place on May 28 in Hyderabad's Jubilee Hills after the survivor reportedly met the accused at a party in a pub there.
The teen girl was reportedly raped in an Innova car, which was recovered by police from a farm house on Sunday. The 17-year-old girl was gangraped by five boys in a car after she met them in a pub where they were having a bash for school reopening.
By the time the incident was reported three days later, the accused were on run and the car in which the crime took place was washed to destroy the evidence.
The first five have been accused under sections of gangrape, abduction, voluntarily causing hurt as also sections of the POCSO Act. Ordinarily under the POCSO Act, convicts can get the death penalty, 20 years in jail or a lifetime in jail. The sixth has been accused of outraging modesty of a woman, voluntarily causing hurt and also sexual assault.
However, Anant Kumar Asthana, a child rights lawyer, told BOOM that even though the minor accused persons can be charged under POCSO, they would be taken to a juvenile justice board (JJB) and reformed and rehabilitated accordingly.
"If the minor is below 16 years of age, then at max he or she can be placed in a Special Home or a Place or Safety for a maximum period of three years for institutional reformation and rehabilitation. If the minor is above 16 and the POCSO offence of which he is alleged of is a heinous offence, then there is a possibility, depending on what JJB decides, that such minor may get harsher punishments but still no death penalty. Death penalty is not at all a possibility as long a sex offender was below 18 years of age on the date of commission of offence," Asthana said.
"JJB will carry out an assessment where they will consider his ability to understand the consequences of his act, his mental and physical capacity to committ the alleged offence and the circumstances in which offence was committed. Based on these assessments, JJB may retain the case in JJB and treat him like a child and reform and rehabilitate him. But it can also decide to transfer his case to an adult court for his trial as an adult," he said.
"We have booked them under the stringent sections, so they get maximum punishment for this heinous crime," Hyderabad police commissioner CV Anand told reporters.
The car in which the girl was raped was recovered by police on Sunday. Even though the car had been washed to eradicate any proof, the police have said they have enough evidence to establish the fact that it was used for the crime. NDTV reported that forensic team found tissues and an earring of the survivor.
Who Are The Accused?
All six accused, including 5 juveniles and one major have been arrested by the police.
Most of them are from influential families with political connections. Among the five minors, one is the son of a leader of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Another TRS leader's son is also accused. Another accused is the son of a corporator from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), according to reports. The last arrest is of another juvenile, son of an AIMIM MLA.
The AIMIM MLA's son has been charged with molestation. "Though he wasn't in the Innova car where the victim was gang-raped, he allegedly abused her while travelling in the Mercedes," said reports.
There were reports that state Home Minister Mahmood Ali's grandson was also involved in the case. However, Ali denied the accusations and said he had the CCTV footage showing him at home that evening.
On Sunday, relatives of the Home Minister lodged a complaint with the Chaderghat police, seeking action against those spreading rumours about the the minister's grandson in connection with the alleged gangrape of a minor girl at Jubilee Hills. In his complaint, Syed Layaq Ali stated that the baseless allegations posted on social media platform Facebook have caused immense anguish and humiliation to the entire family.
In an interview to Deccan Chronicle, the TRS leader said, "My grandson has nothing to do with the crime. Baseless allegations were made by a BJP MLA, who stooped to new record levels for political gain."
He was condemning the allegations by BJP MLA Raghunandan Rao Madhavaneni.
"Our police department will not spare anyone. Every single guilty person in this case will be caught, tried and punished as per law," he said.
The Political Slugfest
At a news conference on Saturday, BJP MLA Raghunandan Rao Madhavaneni released some photographs and videos purportedly showing the son of an MLA in an intimate act with the victim in a car. The MLA defended his action saying he had made the evidence public as police were shield the son of an MIM MLA by giving him a clean chit.
Claiming that he has more evidence he said he would produce them before court at an appropriate time if the police fail to take action. He also disputed police claim that the sexual assault happened in Innova and alleged that the video shows the sexual assault happened in red-colour Mercedes car.
The incident has turned into a political slugfest as two of the accused, already in custody, are the sons leaders of ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The opposition parties alleged that the delay in registering the case was part of cover-up. They also alleged that police were trying to shield other suspects, including the son of a MLA of MIM.
The BJP MLA, too, has come under attack from the TRS, Congress and other parties for releasing the photographs and video, revealing the identity of the victim in violation of the Supreme Court orders.
"It is common sense & also SC directive that a rape victim's identity should be protected. A lawyer& BJP MLA Raghunandan today exposed video of the rape victim. Is it for politics or personal gains?," asked Congress MP in-charge of party affairs in Telangana Manickam Tagore.
The Congress MP posted an old photograph of Raghunandan Rao with the MIM chief and asked, "How did the BJP MLA get access to a video that would be either with the police or with one of the offenders?"
The BJP MLA also responded to one of the tweets by Tagore. "I appreciate ur fight for truth. But I am Confused about with whom ur fight is? Is it with the one who is providing the evidence and fighting for justice? Or with someone who is misusing law and order and side tracking the case?"
The BJP MLA was booked for posting the photos and videos.
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