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HC glare on shalishi suicide
- Court seeks case documents, one villager held in Malda

Calcutta, April 4: Calcutta High Court today took suo motu cognisance of the suicide by a young mother, who after a rape attempt was taunted and humiliated in a Malda kangaroo court that asked her alleged tormentor to merely seek forgiveness.

The division bench of Chief Justice A.K. Mishra and Justice Joymalya Bagchi directed the registrar-general of the court to ask the district magistrate, superintendent of police and district judge of Malda to file reports on the incident.

“The registrar-general of this court is directed to ask the DM, SP and district judge of Malda to file reports on the incident as immediately as possible.”

In Malda, the mother of the alleged attacker, who the police said was a minor, and one of the four villagers who called the shalishi meeting, identified as Biseswar Mondal, were produced in court today.

Both have been charged under IPC Section 306, which deals with abetment to suicide.

Yesterday morning, the lady, who has four children, died after setting herself ablaze on Wednesday.

The woman was attacked in her Malda village home on Monday night when she was at home with her four children. Her farm-labourer husband, who was not at home, said that a neighbourhood youth entered their home around 11pm.

The husband has alleged that the lady was raped but in her dying declaration the lady had said the youth had attempted to rape her.

The victim’s father-in-law, however, has filed a rape complaint.

The husband said yesterday that while the shalishi meeting was on, several villagers laughed at the woman and taunted her when she protested that the alleged attacker was being let off lightly.

Police said that after the shalishi meeting gave its decision — that the youth must touch the woman’s feet and beg forgiveness — the mother of the accused abused the woman. The woman, tortured by the public humiliation, set herself on fire on Wednesday, the husband said.

Today, the high court took cognisance of the matter when senior advocate Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya drew the attention of the bench to the case. “This is a heinous crime and the members of the kangaroo court should be given exemplary punishment along with the accused.”

Bhattacharyya said: “The Supreme Court had issued guidelines asking high courts and subordinate courts to take strong measures against the kangaroo courts. So this court should take cognisance of the matter and start suo motu proceedings against all the accused.”

Later in the day, Malda district judge Bibhas Patnaik left for the village where a 30-year-old homemaker had burnt herself to death. The judge visited the shalishi sabha spot and spoke to the family of the victim after the high court instructed him to make an inquiry and submit areport.

Around 9pm last night, the police arrested 55-year-old Biseswar Mondol, who is allegedly one of the four men who led the shalishi meeting.

Both were produced before chief judicial magistrate Amitava Das, who remanded them in three days’ police custody.

The court also recorded a statement of the nine-year-old son of the victim.

Malda police superintendent Rajesh Yadav said before leaving for the woman’s village that a case had been started based on a complaint lodged by the father-in-law of the victim.

Yadav said the mother of the rape-bid accused and Mondal had been charged under IPC Section 306 (abetment of suicide), Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) and Section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence).

“The cases have been started against the youth who is a minor and the others named by the victim in a statement made to Manikchak police at the hospital. We have already arrested the mother and one of those named, Biseswar Mondol, from the village last night. The others are Ratan Mondol, Dilip Mondol and Chandradip Dorji. They have fled the village and I have received reports that most of the men of the village have fled,” Yadav said.

The lady’s husband said yesterday that he and his wife had wanted to go to the police but they were stopped from doing so by four other day labourers in the village, whom the lady named in her dying declaration.

As the youth charged with attempted rape is a minor, he would be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act.