February 5th, 2016
Image Source: timesofindia
In a shocking incident a Panchayat in Meerganj Tehsil, Uttar Pradesh pardoned an alleged rapist after he was made to touch the victims feet. What’s baffling is that the incident took place right in front of a police station and the police itself referred the case to the Panchayat. The village pardhan brought the alleged rapist with him to the police station in the presence of the victim and the verdict was delivered. The incident came to limelight when the senior officials came to know about it.
The survivor who is a widow was working at a leveling project under the MGNREGA scheme in a forested area of Meergunj Tehsil. She was alone at the work area after her fellow workers had left for lunch. The accused, a rozgar sewak, arrived at the spot, took advantage of the situation and later threatened to kill her. However the survivor later reported the incident to the police but the constables on duty allegedly refused to entertain her complaint and instead called up the village pardhan. The pardhan then called for a panchayat right outside the police station, where the accused was ordered to touch the woman’s feet and she was then asked to keep mum about the crime.
However showing courage and guts the woman brought the entire matter to the notice of superintendent of police (SP) rural areas Brijesh Srivastava, who reprimanded Meergunj police in charge and directed them to immediately lodge a complaint on this matter. The SP said “The matter was brought to my notice and I have instructed the circle officer (CO) to investigate the matter. if the allegations are found to be true strict action will be taken against the accused as well as the panchayat members.
It is to be noted that Panchayats in India act as Nyaya panchayats which are an informal system of dispute resolution at the village level. The 114th law commission had said that “Article 39A of the Constitution of India directs the State to secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular, provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by economic or other disabilities”. Clearly the judicial mechanism imposed by panchayats has fallen prey to the localized influence of powerful people and justice is not being delivered. This recent incident in Meerganj tehsil is one of the many episodes of alleged criminals being let off easy by the elected panchayat head in UP and also in other neighboring states.
The logical Indian community requests the UP government to put an end to the “goonda raj” once and for all. Those in power have repeatedly committed crimes and gotten away with it because of their alleged political links. India which is already battling to do away with the image of a country being unsafe for women, it is decisions like these by panchayats that show how gruesome society can be for women in India.