A day after Kingshuk Debsharma, the main accused in the IIT Madras sexual assault case was arrested from West Bengal by a special team of Tamil Nadu police, he managed to secure bail the very next day, on Monday, March 28. Activists allege that police inaction and inordinate delay led to the lapse. Under pressure, the Chennai police have now issued fresh summons to the accused to appear before the investigators on March 31. A special team from Chennai arrested Kingshuk from West Bengal, on March 27, and he was kept under custody at Diamond Harbour police station in Kolkata. He was later produced before the local magistrate on Monday to obtain a transit warrant to be brought to Chennai. However, on March 28, Kingshuk managed to secure bail by convincing the court that he would pay the surety on an anticipatory bail he had obtained on December 6, 2021.
A 30-year-old Dalit woman PhD scholar had accused Kingshuk of sexual harassment and rape that occurred between 2016 and 2020. She had filed a complaint at the Mylapore All Women Police Station in Chennai in March 2020. However, the First Information Report (FIR) was only registered in June, three months after the complaint was first filed and rape charges were not even mentioned in the FIR. The FIR also omitted sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. When All India Democratic Womenâ€™s Association (AIDWA) took up the matter last week, Chennai police dashed to West Bengal to arrest Kingshuk, but failed to bring him back as he was able to secure bail. AIDWA, which helped the IIT PhD scholar who filed the rape complaint questioned the police about why the initial FIR did not include charge of rape and did not invoke sections of SC/ST Act. Secondly, AIDWA questioned why the police were not able to get his bail cancelled, if they had altered the FIR to include these charges.
The altered FIR accessed by TNM, mentions Sections 376 of IPC (punishment for rape) and Section 3(1)(w) of SC/ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act. AIDWA questioned how Kingshuk was able to execute his previous anticipatory bail despite an altered FIR. The earlier version of the FIR only mentioned charges of criminal intimidation, assault with intent to outrage modesty and disrobe and also for voyeurism.
S Manonmani, secretary at the NGO Magalir Satta Udhavi Mandram, said that bail was not usually granted when the FIR was altered to include more charges. â€śBut here we are not sure what reasons were given for him to be granted bail. How was the initial anticipatory bail given? Why were the non-bailable sections of rape and SC/ST Act not added earlier? Further, why did the police not object to bail when they were asked?â€ť she said. Manonmani further added that police did not inform the survivor or the activists that a medical test report had been ready for months. "When we went to the Assistant Commissioner in March 2022 questioning why rape charges were not added, he said a medical test needed to be done. That was when an investigating officer said the test report was ready and handed over the same to him. There is legal cunningness at play here,â€ť Manonmani alleged.
The Investigation officer of the case, Kotturpuram Assistant Commissioner of Police C Subramanian said that the FIR was altered on March 26, after receiving a fresh complaint from the woman on March 25, 2022. Speaking to TNM, a senior police officer said that since Kingshuk had not filed his surety for anticipatory bail, the police thought that it would be easy to get his bail cancelled. However, Kingshuk's lawyer convinced the magistrate that he should be given bail on the condition that he would cooperate with the investigation.
AIDWAâ€™s Chepauk-Triplicane area president Kavitha Gajendran said that there had been a mistake on the side of the police, and questioned how he had obtained bail. â€śKingshuk and another accused Malay were already given nine months of time. They all expected the woman to become tired, but she is fighting." Kavitha further said that they had lost trust in the police and have sought a CB-CID investigation into the issue. â€śIt is necessary that the state government gets involved so that we can find a solution. We need all political parties and movements to get involved, because we are fighting a Brahminical nexus which has everybody around it under its control. Otherwise, why were the rape charges or SC/ST (PoA) Act not invoked earlier?â€ť Kavitha asked.
Manonmani said there was no hope for reducing crime if this was how the system worked. â€śWill any woman seek help from the police? My suspicion is on the police. If the FIR was altered, the court must have considered it. The police showed and are still showing lethargy in this case. They have files of all the documents, but why was no action taken?â€ť she demanded.