The court order is significant because the survivor had alleged intimidation and harassment by the Air Force College authorities to dissuade her from filing a formal police complaint about the sexual assault.

IAF rape case accused
news Sexual assault Saturday, October 23, 2021 - 18:39

The Additional District Court in Coimbatore has allowed the city police to investigate Amitesh Harmukh, accused of raping his colleague, a flight lieutenant, at the Air Force College in the city. The court modified a lower court order, which had granted the IAF custody of the accused, allowing it to proceed with court martial proceedings and took the investigation away from under the police. As per the Additional District Court judge’s order, given on Saturday, October 23, the Air Force Authority will retain custody and proceed with the inquiry under Air Force Act, 1950; however, the police can also proceed with their investigation.

“The Revision Petitioner (Coimbatore Police) is permitted to proceed with their investigation and that the accused would only be under the custody of Air Force Authority and that proper intimation to be given well in advance for investigation of the accused by the police to the respondent (Air Force Authority). On such intimation or requisition if received by the respondent, the respondent should provide a feasible atmosphere within the campus of Air Force Authority and should allow privacy of the investigation by the police should not be interrupted by the Air Force Authorities,” the court said.

The court also directed the police, after completing its investigation, to “prepare two sets of material evidence and one set of such evidence shall be placed to the Court Martial for trial under the Air Force Act, 1950.” Further, the police are also free to independently proceed for the criminal trial of Amitesh regardless of the outcome of the court martial. The police may “seek appropriate direction after the disposal of the case by the Court Martial, as per Section 126 of Air Force Act, that a person convicted or acquitted by a Court Martial may, with the previous sanction of the central government, be tried again by a criminal court for the same offence or on the same facts.”

This is significant, because the survivor had alleged in her complaint that she had faced intimidation and harassment from the Air Force authorities after she brought the sexual assault – which took place on September 10 – to their notice. According to her complaint, these attempts were to dissuade her and her friend – who had allegedly seen Amitesh in the survivor’s room – from taking up the matter formally at the Air Force College. Following this, the survivor went to the police. However, the Air Force moved court stating that the police could not investigate the matter which was internal to the IAF and thus, could be adjudicated on only via court martial, which a lower court had allowed. The Coimbatore City Police challenged this order at the district court.

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