A city court on Tuesday framed charges against Sumit Bajaj, Nishad Khan (Ruman) and Naser Khan, the three youths arrested in connection with the Park Street gang rape case, and announced the trial will begin on March 2, almost 13 months after the incident.
The victim’s lawyer appealed to the court to ensure that aspersions are not cast on her during the trial, keeping in mind a recent central ordinance. “We requested the court to follow the recommendations of the central ordinance regarding crime against women. Under no circumstance should the chastity of the victim be hurt during the trial,” said Anirban Guha Thakurta, the victim’s lawyer.
The rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi in December had prompted the Union cabinet to issue the ordinance last month to amend laws pertaining to sex crimes, including sexual assault, acid attack, voyeurism and trafficking, on the basis of recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma committee.
The ordinance mentions that during a trial under the section of rape or attempt to rape where the consent of the victim is in question, evidence of her character or her previous sexual experience shall not be relevant.
Senior police officers said in most rape trials, defence lawyers try to build their case by asking uncomfortable questions to the victim and questioning her background.
Trinamul MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar had recently commented that the rape on February 9 last year was nothing but a “misunderstanding between a woman and her professional clients”.
On Tuesday, the additional sessions judge of the third fast-track court of Bankshall court, Madhuchhanda Bose, accepted a copy of the central ordinance submitted by Guha Thakurta and sought cooperation from all the parties to help her wrap up the case within four months. The judge cited a high court directive to sessions courts for speedy trial of cases involving crime against women.
Following the Delhi gang rape and murder, the Supreme Court had issued a directive to the high courts, asking them to take all possible steps to ensure speedy trial of rape and other cases of torture against women.
The police have charged the arrested trio under IPC Sections 376 (2)(g) (gang rape), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention).
Charges were framed against Nishad Khan and Naser Khan under all the sections that police slapped on them. But three of the charges that had been slapped on Sumit Bajaj — voluntarily causing hurt, criminal intimidation and common intention — have been dropped.
“My client will be tried only under sections of gang rape and criminal conspiracy,” said Bajaj’s lawyer K.K. Tiwari.
The prime accused in the case, Kadir Khan, and co-accused Ali are absconding and will have to undergo “part trial”, if and when they are arrested by the police.
Deposition by witnesses will start on the first day of the trial. “A constable of the detective department who made a sketch of the place where the crime was committed is likely to be the first witness. The victim is next on the list of witnesses. There are over 30 witnesses on the list,” said a lawyer involved in the case.