The Karnataka High Court on Monday expressed the opinion that the villagers who stood mute spectators as a Dalit woman was stripped and paraded naked, should be fined by the Government, and the amount must be given to the victim.
A Division Bench, headed by Chief Justice PB Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit, while looking into the PIL filed regarding the case, further stated that the Karnataka Government should make a provision for punishment or imposition of fines on the people of Vantamuri Village in Belagavi district where the incident took place.
The Bench mentioned that William Bentinck, a Governor General of British-occupied India, imposed additional duties on villages where people indulged in thefts. Likewise, if additional duties are levied in the present circumstances, the people will show more responsibility in future.
“If people turn mute spectators when such incidents occur, what message goes out to society? The villagers who displayed cowardice for selfish goals should understand their responsibility towards the community. Such acts cannot be tolerated. The Government has to impose additional duties and collect fines from every resident of the village, ” the Bench stated.
“The behaviour of the villagers at a time when a woman is stripped and assaulted, being mute spectators, is condemnable. If incidents like this are to stop in the future, a message has to be delivered to civil society. In this backdrop, we are ordering the collection of fines, ” the Bench explained.
Advocate General Shashi Kiran Shetty, representing the Government, submitted that a person named Jahangir helped the woman. “When the incident took place, there were 60 to 70 people, and no one, including gram panchayat members, dared to help the victim, ” said Advocate General Shetty.
“The victim has undergone counseling, and better treatment is being administered. Her health is improving daily.
“The Government has taken the case seriously and handed it over to the CID for an effective probe and 11 people were arrested. The Government has also given two acres of land and Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the woman, ” he explained.
The police officers and others who showed negligence are suspended. This incident would not have taken place if the members of the gram panchayat had intervened, he added.
The Bench stated that there is no political connection to the incident and the objective is to get justice for the victim.
The incident occurred on December 10 when the 42-year-old woman was dragged outside her home, stripped naked, and paraded. She was then tied to an electric pole and assaulted, reportedly because her son had eloped with a girl from the village. The terror was unleashed on the boy’s mother by the family members of the girl.
The Karnataka High Court had strongly criticised the Government earlier for the failure of the police department to prevent the incident. The Bench remarked, “What will be the fear among other women? She will feel unsafe in the country. It did not even happen in Mahabharata. Draupadi had Lord Krishna who came up to help her, but in the modern world, no one came to help her. Unfortunately, this is a world of Duryodhanas and Dushasanas.”