ON May 18, the District and Sessions Court in Ajmer convicted eight persons who were involved in the "Ajmer sex and photo blackmail racket". In a keenly-watched judgment, Judge Kanhaiya Lal Vyas sentenced these persons to life imprisonment and directed the to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000 each. They have been sentenced under Sections 376, 120 B and 292 (120 B) of the Indian Penal Code. The 206-page judgment also criticised the role of the police in the efforts to hush up the case by describing the sexual exploitation and subsequent blackmail as a case of prostitution.
The case had rocked Rajasthan for two reasons. The first was the involvement of politically influential persons and the second was the fact that all the victims were young women who had been trapped in a vortex of blackmail and sexual exploitation. Investigations revealed that 30 girls had been victimised.
The case was a challenging one since many of the crucial witnesses turned hostile. Only 12 of the young women filed cases; 10 of them backed out later because they came under various kinds of pressure, including threats. Meanwhile, some of the victims got married. The Ajmer Mahila Samooh, which took up the cause of the victims, backed out after its activists were threatened. However, the courage of two of the victims, who deposed before the court and gave their statements, helped bring the culprits to book.
Speaking to Frontline from Ajmer, Parsaram Sharma, an advocate and the district secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that he too had been threatened by the accused. Sharma said that the Bar Association and women's and students' organisations in Ajmer had campaigned vigorously for the arrest of the persons behind the racket. "Once the cases were filed, the Bar Association initially decided not to represent any of the accused," said Sharma. "This probably angered the persons behind the racket."
Hailing the judgment that has come at a time when atrocities against women have been on the rise in Rajasthan Frontline, November 29, 1996), Sharma said that the political leaders and police officials who were behind the racket had still not been arrested. According to him, it is widely accepted that the main accused have not been brought to book. The trial of one of the accused, a former youth Congress leader, who is reported to have lost his mental balance, is pending. Another accused, who allegedly processed the photographic films related to the sexual exploitation, committed suicide along with his wife in 1994. The two main accused have not been traced so far, while two more accused are absconding. It has been alleged that only those who had links with non-BJP parties were arrested.