Amid a controversy over the public prosecutor seeking minimum punishment for the three accused in the Park Street gangrape case, the West Bengal government on Saturday removed the lawyer from the panel of government pleaders.
However, the prosecutor Sarbani Roy hit back, virtually questioning the government’s will in nabbing the absconding main accused, and threatening to expose those working behind the scenes to help the youth escape the law.
A day after Roy said she did not seek the maximum punishment for the three youths, as they were not directly involved in the rape of the Anglo-Indian woman in February 2012, state Law and Justice Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya announced she has been sacked.
“The government pleader without any instructions from the government spelt out her stand about the quantum of punishment. This is not desirable. In the legal battle, she fought on behalf of the government, not to decide the quantum of punishment, but to get them pronounced guilty by the court.
“Without any instruction and advice, she expressed her stand. The government has not taken it well. Hence, she has lost the right to work as government pleader. So she has been removed from the panel of public prosecutors.
“The quantum of sentence depends on the learned judge. But the government pleader sought minimum punishment. This has not gone down well with the government,” said Bhattacharya.
The three youths – Naser Khan, Ruman Khan and Sumit Bajaj – were sentenced to ten years rigorous imprisonment for gangrape of the Anglo Indian woman on the night of February 5, 2012, after she had come out of a night club on fashionable Park Street. The quantum of punishment meted out is the minimum that can be given under the relevant section – 376(2)(g) – of the Indian Penal Code.
However, Roy dared the minister to issue her a show cause and said she would give a befitting reply.
“Before making the comment, she (the minister) should have verified the matter from me. Let her give a show cause. I’ll give a proper answer.”
Roy also reminded the minister that she was appointed by the state governor, and not by the government.
In explosive remarks, she questioned the seriousness of the government in getting the main accused Kader Khan arrested.
“The person who raped is in hiding. We also have information about those working behind the scenes to help him to abscond. If they had the will, they could have picked them up long back. It is the duty of the investigative agency, police department, and it is the duty of the government to help them,” said Roy.
The lawyer alleged that the police had twice missed Kader narrowly. “Once, they went to a hotel, and found he had fled the spot only 10 minutes back. Later, police raided another hotel after getting a fresh tip-off, but he had escaped barely five minutes before police arrived.”
“Yes, of course, he was getting the information,” she replied, when asked whether somebody was tipping him off about impending police raids.
The Anglo-Indian woman — then 40 years old, a divorcee and mother of two — was beaten up and gang-raped by five men at gun-point inside a moving car and then thrown off the vehicle near a city intersection on the night of February 5, 2012.
Apart from the prime accused Kader, co-accused Mohammed Ali was also in hiding.
Meanwhile, the leftist women’s organisations hit the streets protesting against the stand taken by the public prosecutor in court on the quantum of punishment.Carrying aloft posters and banners, the women activists staged a demonstration before the park Street police station.
Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member Mohammed Salim dubbed the removal of the public prosecutor as a “face-saver” on the part of the state government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.