The driver of a no-refusal taxi and a trader who had hired him for the day allegedly tried to drag a homemaker into the car near Bally Halt station in Howrah on Monday evening.
The incident happened around 7pm on a dark stretch of an approach road to National Highway 2.
Alerted by the woman’s cries, people waiting at a bus stop 30 metres from the spot chased down the white-and-blue Swift Dzire and dragged out trader Rohit Lenka, 38, and driver Ajay Jha, 36.
“They had tried to flee but the taxi got stuck in a traffic congestion near the bus stop, enabling the people to catch the offending duo,” said a man who witnessed the incident. “The two men got a public thrashing before they were taken to Bally police station.”
Lenka, a Dankuni resident who runs a paint business, and Jha were arrested after the woman lodged a complaint with Bally police station. The police said alcohol bottles were found in the car.
The woman from Baidyabati in Hooghly district was on her way home after visiting a relative in Bally.
“She was walking down an approach road that would lead her to a narrow path in front of Bally Halt station, a shortcut to Bally station where she had intended to catch a train home. But before she reached the path, the taxi stopped next to her,” an officer said quoting the woman’s complaint.
“The trader, who was in the rear seat, asked the woman to get into the car. When she refused, the man got down from the taxi,” said the officer. “The driver followed suit and both allegedly grabbed the woman by her arms and tried to drag her into the taxi.”
He said the woman resisted and “started shouting at the top of her voice for help”. “People waiting at the bus stand heard her cries and started running towards the taxi. When the driver saw the approaching crowd, he panicked and asked the trader to get in as they tried to flee. But they couldn’t go more than a couple of hundred metres because of a jam,” said the officer.
According to the police, Lenka had hired the taxi for the entire day. He took off in the morning from his residence and went to East Midnapore, where he was to receive a payment from a client.
“He had taken the taxi to Tobin Road near Baranagar for some work. Lenka bought food and liquor there. He and the cabbie were drunk,” said the officer.
Police said both were booked under IPC sections 354A (sexual harassment), 509 (act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).
A transport department official said a yellow or blue-and-white taxi with permit to ply in Calcutta or Howrah cannot go to East Midnapore. “The taxi will require a state permit,” he said.