Among the several shocking names that came out of the MeToo movement, which took India by storm, was that of Alok Nath. Multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault. It was producer Vinta Nanda however, who took the first step – revealing that the actor known for playing sanskaari roles, had raped her two decades ago. In the legal proceedings that have been ongoing in the case between Vinta and Alok, the Dindoshi Sessions Court on January 5 granted the latter anticipatory bail.
While doing so, the court made several observations, some of which doubt the credibility of Vinta’s version of events. However, Vinta tells TNM that these are just observations made on the basis of Alok’s application for bail, so they are bound to be one-sided. She adds, “This (Alok getting anticipatory bail) is not a setback. In fact, it has brought him out in the open to face the law, unlike before, when he had been absconding for 6-8 weeks and not appearing for hearings.”
Since the court order came out, several news reports have been focusing on how it is in favour of Alok Nath due to the observations made. For instance, Additional Sessions Judge SS Oza says in the order that the delay in filing the FIR was for Vinta’s own benefit.
While the incident allegedly happened in 1998, the police complaint was made on October 17, 2018, and then, on the basis of second report dated November 20, 2018, the FIR was registered against Alok. The order states that Vinta in her report said that it was on the advice of her friends that she decided not to file a complaint at the time because Alok was a big actor and all her companies had been shut down. “Thus, nothing on record to show that applicant has given any threat or made any promise for not lodging the report. Thus, its reveals that applicant did not lodge the report immediately after alleged incident of her own benefit,” the court observed.
While reasonably justifying the advantages of filing a prompt FIR, the court says that if there is a delay, “danger creeps in of the introduction of coloured version, exaggerated account or concocted story as a result of large number of consultations/deliberations.” It adds that a prompt FIR is “assurance of truth” of the complainant’s version. “A promptly lodged FIR reflects the first-hand account of what has actually happened, and who was responsible for the offence in question,” the observations read.
The judge also noted that although Vinta recollected the incident in its entirety but did not remember the date and month of the incident, it is possible that she is framing Alok. “In view of all these facts the possibility cannot be ruled out that the applicant has falsely been enroped in the crime,” the court order said.
As for the court having doubts on her story due to delay in filing of the FIR, Vinta points out that there are thousands of cases of sexual violence which go unreported, but that does not mean they did not happen. “I was silent for so many years because I belong to a community and the atmosphere there was not enabling, until recently. And when it did become enabling during the MeToo movement, I did speak up. I was able to give vent to so many other women also who spoke up against him after that. Can it be that all of us are lying and only Alok Nath is telling the truth?” she argues.
Vinta's point is substantiated by several studies. For instance, a UK study found that less than half of the rapes were reported on the day they happened. The time in reporting the sexual assault, if at all, increased if the crime happened when the survivor was a child. The reasons for not reporting can also vary - from being silenced, to not wanting the perpetrator to go to prison due to the nature of relationship with him, to the fear of not being believed - these have been demonstrated substantially in the MeToo movement in India as well.
Vinta says that while it is difficult to read about such aspersions cast on her story, she understands that the judge has made these notes based on Alok’s application. This application, she alleges, had many baseless allegations and slander against her. “The Public Prosecutor has argued against these to the best of their ability. The good thing is that our intervention on these claims was accepted and put on record; though it has not been considered by the court in making its observations,” Vinta adds.
Vinta says she felt vindicated when Alok Nath was expelled from CINTAA (Cine and Television Artistes Association) in November 2018. However, she admits that she was not this unperturbed when Alok Nath filed the application. “To write that 50-page reply to his application where he had cast aspersions on my character and I had to clarify each point that he had cooked up to mislead the court, that was hard,” Vinta shares.
That being said, Vinta is confident that Alok will now have to face the consequences as he has come within the ambit of law. “I have respect for the court order because I trust the process of law. The investigation has just begun,” she says.