India’s top court speeds up rape case after BJP sacks legislator

India’s Supreme Court, above, on Thursday fast-tracked the two-year rape case of a brave young woman who is in a critical condition after a weekend car crash seen by her poor family as an attempt on her life by aides of the suspect, a four-time legislator.

An hour before the top court set deadlines for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to complete the investigations and the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government to pay interim compensation to the 19-year-old survivor, the jailed suspect, Kuldeep Sengar, was belatedly sacked by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling the state.

Institutions and political leaders failed the survivor who, as a minor, was allegedly raped by Sengar and his aides in his home in Makhi village, Unnao, in 2017 when she approached him hoping his government focused on girls’ empowerment would help her get a job.

The top court took up her case after she recently wrote a letter to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi seeking the court’s urgent intervention, justice and protection as Sengar’s aides were constantly threatening her family.

Her father had already died in police custody in suspicious circumstances and a witness also died later.

Two of her aunts died when a truck with obscured number plate rammed into the car they were travelling in on a state highway in Rae Bareli district on Sunday. The survivor and her lawyer suffered serious injuries in the accident.

The survivor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had mailed the letter to the chief justice a fortnight ago but, for some unknown reason, it reached him only after the accident.

A three-bench Supreme Court headed by the chief justice on Thursday ordered that all cases related to the rape, including the car-truck crash incident, be shifted from UP to a Delhi court.

It ordered the CBI to complete the car crash investigation in seven days.

The bench ordered daily hearing of the case to complete the trial in 45 days.
It also directed the UP government to pay an interim compensation of $36,180 to her family.

Critics attack BJP

BJP claims Sengar’s expulsion proves the party’s tough policy towards anyone who faces serious allegations.

But critics view it as a small and belated step by the saffron party to save its own face.

Ever since the case came to light after the survivor threatened to self-immolate in front of the chief minister’s official residence a year ago, the state and union governments were trying to shield Sengar, they allege.

Critics wonder why BJP, which is known for its discipline and non-nonsense approach, failed to suspend or sack the legislator months ago.

BJP says Sengar was charged under the child protection laws in 2017 and he is in jail awaiting trial.

Critics question why the case had not even been listed for trial. Finally, the Supreme Court had to intervene to get things moving, they argue.

Although the BJP claimed Sengar was suspended after the car crash, the party declined to specify when the decision was taken, opposition parties further allege.

Women’s rights activists say the Supreme Court’s orders prove the state police’s laxity, administrative apathy and political leaders’ lack of moral courage to act despite a saffron-clad chief minister leading them.

Toll booth video

In the meantime, TV stations on Thursday aired a CCTV footage of the truck approaching a toll booth in Lal Ganj at 6.29am on the day of the accident (July 28). The toll ticket shows the registration number of the vehicle as 8300.

The highway accident involving the survivor’s car took place around 1.30 pm.

Someone may have blackened the number plate on the truck’s front between 6am and 1.30pm.  

The mother of the survivor insists that the crash was not an accident.