Thanks to the Criminal Amendment Act, section 376 (rape) and 376(d) (gangrape) of the IPC were also added to the charges.

 Six years later case of Mangaluru students coerced to have sex on cam is on trialImage for representation
news Crime Saturday, January 18, 2020 - 13:00

In December 2013, a ghastly case of kidnapping and sexual assault shook Mangaluru in Karnataka. Two medical students – a 22-year-old woman and her male friend – were abducted by a gang of eight men, taken to an isolated location, and forced to have sex which the accused recorded on their mobile phones. They also demanded a ransom of Rs 25 lakh if they didn’t want the video uploaded online.

Six years after the crime, the case has finally gone to trial. The first hearing was held in December 2019, and second one took place on Friday, where the second witness was examined. This is also apparently the first case filed in Mangaluru after laws dealing with rape became more stringent following the Criminal Amendment Act which happened after the Delhi gang-rape of December 2012.

But what caused such an extensive delay in such a crucial case? TNM spoke to lawyer Asha Nayak, who, along with her husband, rationalist Narendra Nayak, were proactive in helping the victims and pushing for the case; as well as a source close to the case. And the main reason appears to be that four of the accused, including the main accused, are absconding.

What went right in the case

Asha Nayak tells TNM that in a departure from many cases, the police was actually very proactive in this case. “The eight accused were nabbed within two days of the crime, and investigations were also done well. In fact, the police delved deep into the forensic evidence also where they matched voices on the video [of the victims] with the accused as well.”

The accused were identified as Imran Altaf alias Shamsuddin, Iqbal, Arafat, Nawaz, Nisar Ahmed, Adbul Ravoof, Sameer and Safwan Hussain. Most of them were in their 20s. The chargesheet of over 500 pages was also filed by March 2014, and as many as 68 witnesses identified.

Further, thanks to the Criminal Amendment Act, section 376 (rape) and 376(d) (gangrape) of the IPC were also added to the charges, after a non-governmental women’s organisation, Jagrathi Mahila Vedike appealed to the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) III court.

“It was a lot of effort to get those sections included – while the men did not rape the victim themselves, they directed her friend to do it. Without the Criminal Amendment act, it would just have been dacoity, section 307 (abduction), kidnapping… but with the amendment, we were able to say that this was in fact gangrape, which made the case stronger,” Asha says.

Absconding accused

However, in May 2015, 17 months after the crime took place, two main accused in the cases – Safwan and Sameer – were granted bail by the Karnataka High Court because the prosecution had not been able to establish what they did during the incident.

Later, two of the other accused also – whose names TNM has not been able to confirm – were also granted bail, and subsequently absconded.

And since then, they have not been tracked down.

This posed a problem because without the presence of all the accused in court, the court could not frame the charges against them, and the trial could not begin.

Background of the case

The horrendous crime took place December 18, 2013. The woman, who was an intern at a medical college in Deralakatte in Mangaluru, had gone out for dinner with a PG student. While returning, the duo had stopped outside her PG accommodation, and was talking when they were allegedly accosted by the eight-member gang.

The culprits abducted the duo, reportedly drove them for around 40 minutes to a secluded place which had an old, abandoned house. There, they forced them to have sex with each other.

When it came to demanding the ransom, the woman reportedly gave the few hundred rupees she had with her and offered her gold ring as well. However, the abductors did not budge. Ultimately, the terrified victims agreed to arrange Rs 3 lakh. The accused let the woman go, saying they would kill her male friend if she did not deliver.

The woman however, informed the police, who made a plan to have the woman offer money to the accused under their surveillance. However, the accused got a whiff that police were involved and escaped. They pushed the man out of the moving car, and he sustained several injuries.

Narendra Nayak and his wife got involved with helping the victims soon, after the former received a call with details about the case on December 19, 2013. The couple played an important role in helping the victims, and providing counseling. They also rubbished reports that the male victim had joined hands with the kidnappers and planned this whole incident, and said that in fact, he had suffered more mental and physical trauma. 

Trial begins

After spending 2-3 years in trying to secure the absconding accused, the JMFC court finally decided to split the case suo motu. This essentially meant that the case was split into parts so that the trial of the four accused who were in custody could proceed.

However, the delay that had already happened affected the case. “The witnesses could have moved, been displaced, or may be more reluctant to cooperate. Further, even the investigating police officials would have been transferred or moved around. They can still come for the trial, but then you have to see their availability also,” Asha says.   

And this seems to have happened too. A source told TNM that the first hearing was actually scheduled in November 2019. However, none of the witnesses – including the male victim in the case – made it to the sixth additional sessions court, where the trial is taking place.  

The court then gave another date - December 12, 2019 – when the trial finally began and the second witness in the case was examined.

Asha also points out that the delay poses a disadvantage to the case in terms of the victims and witnesses forgetting or becoming vague about some details. “As time passes by, there are likely to be some lapses in memory; especially when trauma is involved. The victims in the case went through a very traumatic experience, which put a lot of psychological burden on them. They will have help from the prosecution team of course, but it would have been better if the trial had started in a timely manner,” she says.

She adds that another factor that could have contributed to the delay is the judiciary being overburdened with cases.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 30, 2020.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.