The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tease terror in law loophole

Swastika Mukherjee is not just another pretty face, she is famous too. But that does not stop the young actress from feeling the fear that has gripped women following Saturday's incident at Salt Lake.

'I often go for late-night films to City Centre. The area is completely deserted by the time the show ends. After what happened to June (and Anindita Sarbadhicary) on Saturday evening, I feel really insecure. I have decided not to go for night shows to Salt Lake anymore,' Swastika told Metro on Monday.

The heightened police activity on Monday in front of City Centre and some other Salt Lake trouble spots like the Swimming Pool ' which saw nearly 100 suspected eve-teasers being rounded up ' would do little to allay the fears of Swastika and so many like her.

And one of the reasons for the peril persisting is the fact that the culprits can get away so easy.

Take the five teenagers accused of tailing, hounding, harassing and abusing actress June and tele-filmmaker Anindita. They were arrested on Sunday morning, only to be released on bail a few hours later.

Four in the boy gang, all Class XII students of Daulatram Nopany School, were, however, suspended by the authorities. 'An inquiry is being conducted,' confirmed rector A. Samuel Raj.

But the gap between crime and punishment is glaring, feel the victims of harassment and police officers.

'It is frustrating. We arrested these five youths after nightlong raids and they even confessed to their crime, but we could not hold on to them,' said a senior police officer on Monday.

'It is not possible for the force to take action and check these crimes. We have to prevent it through a social movement and the people must come forward,' said Amitabha Nandy, Dum Dum MP.

Ramen Das, vice-president of Bidhannagar (Salt Lake) Welfare Association, however, pointed a finger at the force. 'Police cannot frame strong cases against eve-teasers and that is why the cases are not often taken to police stations and incidents of lynching take place,' he observed.

Police arrest eve-teasers under section 354 of IPC (outraging the modesty of a woman) and 509 of IPC (obscene gestures and words intending to outrage the modesty of women). Both are bailable offences and punishment, if proved, is imprisonment up to two years.

'Only two states have amended the law, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa,' said Jaymalya Bagchi, a lawyer. While Andhra Pradesh has enhanced the prison sentence to a maximum of seven years and not less than five years, the Orissa government has made the section non-bailable.

Back at City Centre, following a meeting between senior police officials and the mall management, a police check-post has been set up.

And director general Subhas Chandra Avasthy called the two top cops manning Salt Lake and asked them to beef up security in the township.

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