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Supreme Court orders probe in 'very disturbing' Bengal rape, accused in police custody

Posted on Jan 25 2014 | IANS

New Delhi/Kolkata, Jan 24 : The Supreme Court Friday described the alleged horrific gangrape of a woman at the behest of kangaroo court as "very disturbing" and ordered a probe, while the under-fire West Bengal Police made a u-turn and secured a 13 day custody of the 13 accused.

The crime, which has shaken the nation and made India an international headline for a wrong reason, prompted the apex judiciary to issue notice to the Mamata Banerjee government for a probe.

"It is a very disturbing news. We take suo motu cognizance of it," said Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam, as a bench headed by him directed the Birbhum authorities to inquire into the matter and submit report in one week.

A day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee removed the district Superintendent of Police C. Sudhakar for his department's failure to seek custody of the 13 men, who allegedly took turns to brutalise the tribal woman in Subalpur village of Birbhum district, the police sought and gained 13 days' police custody of the accused from a court.

"The Bolpur sub-divisional court remanded the accused in 13 days' police custody, they will again be presented before the court Feb 6," said police prosecutor Firoze K.Pal.

"The investigating officer was too engrossed in ensuring medical attention to the victim which hampered arrangements of documents necessary to be produced before the court," he said, trying to explain police's failure Thursday to seek their remand. The court had then sent them to 14 day judicial custody.

Meanwhile, Sudhakar was sent on compulsory waiting, while the new police chief Alok Rajoria visited the village and police tried to reconstruct the crime scene by taking three of the accused to the spot.

The condition of the alleged victim was said to be "stable", though she had "stomach pain".

Facing severe flak over its handling of the incident as also other rape cases in recent times, the Banerjee administration deputed various officials to the hospital to meet the woman.

The chairman of the expert committee of the woman and child welfare department Ashokendu Sengupta met the woman and assured "all help, financial, medical and social", while the minister Shashi Panja scurried to the defence of the government.

"Police and the administration have acted swiftly the accused are behind bars. The medico-legal tests are complete," she said.

However, the Banerjee regime continued to face the heat.

Observing that the rising instances of crimes against women had "sullied" the image of the state and "people are laughing at us", former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee asked the authorities to wake up.

"I don't know which way we are heading, series of incidents are happening, culprits seem either not being apprehended or are not being punished It's high time the authorities wake up Probably even in the Middle Ages it could not have happened," he said.

Opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat said the ruling Trinamool Congress' "naked patronage" to hoodlums was "affecting the security of women".

The alleged rape took place Monday night in the village in Birbhum district, 180 km from Kolkata.

The woman was allegedly violated following orders of a tribal kangaroo court which found her "guilty of having an affair with a man outside her community".

The woman has said she was left at the mercy of the men after she was unable to pay Rs.50,000 as fine demanded by the headman for having an affair with a man outside her community.

"I lost count of how many times I was raped," she said.

Police said the woman's male companion was tied to a tree, while the woman was assaulted in a mud house. The man has now gone missing.

While the state women's panel has taken cognizance, the National Commission for Women too will send a probe team and demand an action taken report from the chief minister.

The incident is not isolated. In 2010, a 15-year-old tribal girl was forced to parade naked through villages in the same district for falling in love with a boy from another community.

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