The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the appeal of the police personnel accused in the gang rape of 11 Adivasi women of Vakapalli hamlet in Andhra Pradesh in 2007.
The court also expressed concern at the slow pace of the case, and ordered fast-tracking of the case.
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising justices Arun Mishra and Shantana Goudar, noted that the criminal trial must now be heard every day and concluded within six months.
The New Indian Express reported that the judges expressed shock and pointed out that the slow pace of case is undermining the confidence of the tribal women in the criminal justice system.
The incident took place on August 20, 2007 in the undivided Andhra Pradesh, when 11 Adivasi women belonging to Kondh tribe of Vakapalli village in the Nurmati panchayat of the Agency area, in Visakhapatnam, were allegedly gang raped by the Greyhounds personnel (an elite anti-naxal force) at gun point.
The Greyhounds personnel had gone into the village to carry out a combing operation against Maoist rebels.
An FIR was lodged against the Greyhounds personnel under Sections 376 (ii) (g) of the Indian Penal Code IPC (gang rape) and Section 3 (2) (V) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.
Police claimed that the Maoists had forced women to foist a gang rape case on the Greyhounds personnel to malign their image.
In November 2007, human rights, womenâ€™s and peopleâ€™s organisations demanded that the state government order a CBI probe into the incident and approached the High Court, which then directed to initiate a CID inquiry.
In its inquiry, the CID stated that there were too many contradictions in the statements made by the victims.
The CID officials, in their report, suggested that the rape allegation was false and that the size of the bangles picked up at the crime scene did not match the size of the bangles worn by the alleged victims. They further said that the case was unsupported by medical evidence, Deccan Chronicle reported.
The CID report further said that the victims had only minor injuries and didnâ€™t have semen stains on their clothes.
A protest petition was then filed against the CID report. A junior first-class Magistrate at Paderu rejected the report of the CID, and filed a case under Section 190 (1)(b) of the CrPC.
He observed that the rape could have been committed without leaving behind physical injuries or semen stains and that even if it had not been committed, it could have been attempted, which is an offence under Sections 511 and 354.
However, within a week of this, the accused policemen filed a petition before the AP High Court for the quashing of proceedings and obtained a stay order in 2008.
The case later came for hearing in April 2012, in which the judge adopted a strict stance keeping in mind the enormity of the crime and ordered the commencement of the trial against 13 policemen. The accused policemen later moved the Supreme Court on August 31, 2012.
Vrinda Grover, who is fighting the case, said that the bench comprising Arun Mishra made a positive intervention in the case.
â€śThe court expressed shock that the trial took so long. The court was very clear in understanding the powerful intervention of the accused policemen in the case. They asked the case to be expedited and concluded within six months.â€ť
She said that the bench had even pointed out that two of the victims died before the trial even began, and realized that it was the powerful police who wanted to drag the case and buy time to intimidate and influence these marginalised women.
VS Krishna of Human Rights Forum, who has been following the case, said that it was a welcome move by the apex court.
â€śAlready two of the women victims have died, at least now the case has been expedited. The women were really resilient in not budging to the threats of the police. The government institution had failed them,â€ť he told TNM.
He added that at least now, the accused policemen should be convicted