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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Molest TV crew acquitted

Guwahati, Dec. 7: A trial court today convicted 11 of 15 persons accused in the July 9 molestation case outside a bar on Guwahati’s G.S. Road, including prime accused Amarjyoti Kalita.

Four persons, including Newslive TV reporter Gaurav Jyoti Neog who filmed the woman being molested by a mob outside Club Mint bar and was accused of abetting the crime, were acquitted for lack of evidence.

The woman had come out of the bar around 10pm after attending a party and was attacked just as she was about to take an autorickshaw home. She was finally rescued by police and the local people.

The trial court of Kamrup chief judicial magistrate Siddhartha Pratim Moitra sentenced the convicts to two years’ rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine Rs 3,000 each. The money realised as fine will be given as compensation to the victim.

The judge declined to show leniency, saying the “brutality of the offence does not demand any leniency”.

The court said: “The defence tried to damage or destroy her (the victim’s) evidence by way of character assassination. But I like to discard the same as not being relevant to the facts of the present case.”

Besides Kalita, the others held guilty are Dipak Deb, Rubul Ali, Sikandar Basfor, Nabajyoti Baruah, Debo Das, Rup Kanta Kalita, Ghanashyam Mallik, Puspendra Das, Nabajyoti Deka and Dhanraj Basfor. Those acquitted, apart from Neog, are Hafijuddin, Jitumoni Deka and Diganta Basumatary.

Additional public prosecutor Minati Saikia said the 11 were convicted under IPC Sections 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman), 143 (unlawful assembly) 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 341 (wrongful restraint).

Kalita’s counsel Bhaskardev Konwar said his client would appeal in the district and sessions court against the order. Advocate Bijon Kumar Mahajan, who represented Neog, voiced satisfaction at the “expeditious” trial of the case and his client’s acquittal. There had been national outrage after the incident was telecast.

Neog’s counsel had focused his argument on IPC Section 143 (unlawful assembly) and submitted that his client had no common objective with the other accused.

The Electronic Media Forum of Assam expressed relief at Neog’s acquittal. In a meeting on July 16, it had stated that TV visuals of the incident were insufficient to hold Neog guilty. Today, it welcomed Neog back into the forum, from which the reporter had resigned to facilitate an impartial probe.

Apart from the brutality of the attack, the molestation had brought into focus the ethics of the media, especially television journalism that was seen as an extension of the moral police who specifically targeted women who came out of bars and discotheques.

The case also brought into focus the resistance of pro-prohibition groups to the increasing number of bars and liquor stores in the city.

Soon after the July 9 incident, in a separate case related to the Midtown bar, the court had shut down 303 liquor stores and 128 bars based on claims that many were set up bypassing government rules. About 13 such establishments still remain closed.

Club Mint was shut down by the city administration almost immediately after the incident.