Love and loss

The Supreme Court intervenes to provide protection to a Jatav family from Uttar Pradesh which is intimidated by members of the Jat community following an inter-caste relationship.

Published : Sep 30, 2015 12:30 IST

A residential area in Sankroud village.

A residential area in Sankroud village.

When a Jatav youth named Ravi eloped with a Jat girl, Krishna, from Sankroud village in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh in April, little did he expect that this would cost him dearly. His family members were reportedly subjected to threats, intimidation, abduction and torture by members of the Jat community, with the alleged connivance of the police, and were forced to flee the village to Delhi after their house was ransacked and the girl’s relatives allegedly took possession of it.

Ravi’s father, Dharampal, a retired Lance Naik of the Indian Army, laments the turn of events that transformed their humdrum existence into one of persistent fear for life.

In what emerged as yet another instance of the failure of the State’s law enforcement agencies to provide protection to the lower castes against atrocities by the dominant castes, the Supreme Court intervened on September 16 to provide full protection to Ravi’s family, which comprises his father, two brothers and two sisters.

Writ petition

Ravi’s sister Meenakshi Kumari filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court accusing the police of actively participating in the criminal acts of abduction of her family members and torturing them in violation of Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. The petition further alleged that the Uttar Pradesh Police falsely implicated Ravi in a case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. It accused the Delhi Police of failing to discharge its lawful duty upon receiving information about the abduction of an uncle and cousin of the petitioner and of handing over Krishna to her family against her will.

Meenakshi Kumari also alleged that the village khap panchayat had ordered her to be raped and paraded naked as a punishment for the “crime” committed by her brother. (The Uttar Pradesh police denied that such a khap panchayat meeting had taken place.)

Responding to the petition, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices J. Chelameshwar and Abhay Manohar Sapre, directed that Ravi be released on bail on furnishing a personal bond for a sum of Rs.50,000 along with a bond from his brother, Sumit, for the like sum. The court also instructed the Delhi Police to ensure the safety of Ravi’s family. It directed the Uttar Pradesh Police to produce the case diaries pertaining to the two cases registered against Ravi and the members of his family in the Khekra police station in Baghpat.

During an in camera hearing, the court assured Ravi’s family that they would be given police protection. It asked the police not to file any charges against the family without further orders from the court. Sumit said: “We had warned Ravi against pursuing his relationship with Krishna as we knew that it would cause tension in the village.” In February, Krishna was married off to one Sunil Khatri after her family got a hint of the inter-caste relationship. However, Krishna returned to the village and eloped with Ravi in April. Dharampal said: “A number of people from the woman’s family threatened to cause grave harm to my family.” Sumit said there were phone calls threatening to murder the entire family.

Surrender to police On May 2, Ravi and Krishna got in touch with Ravi’s family. Dharampal met them in Delhi and advised them to surrender to the Delhi Police. He handed them over to the Delhi Police fearing for their safety. “I was scared that the woman’s family would hound them and murder them. I thought surrendering to the police would be the best way to ensure their security and safety,” he said.

A daily diary entry, 79 B, at the Mehrauli police station in Delhi notes the surrender of the couple. The police have recorded Krishna’s statement wherein she has said that she is pregnant with Ravi’s child and that she faces a threat to her life from her family members.

Despite her statement, on May 6 the Delhi Police handed over Krishna to her uncle Krishna Pal. The daily diary entry 80 B of the Mehrauli police station notes the handing over.

On May 13, Krishna’s family members allegedly extorted Rs.30,000 from Dharampal for the “crime” of elopement committed by his son. On May 19, Krishna ran away with Ravi once again from her parents’ house. The next day, there was an attack on the house of Ravi’s family. Dharampal described the attack thus: “Four to five people, including Manoj and Sudhir Rathi [uncles of Krishna] and Vikas Rathi [her brother], assembled outside my three-storeyed house at about 10:30 p.m. I locked up my other sons and daughters in the upper storey and called sub-inspector Aman Singh of Khekra police station for help. They were banging on the door violently. They broke one of the doors and some objects in the house. The police arrived almost an hour after the attack. The culprits had run away by then.

“In fact, we had complained to Aman Singh on the afternoon of May 20 about the constant intimidation and threats, and the possibility of an attack. The sub-inspector, instead of registering our complaint, said we had no business to complain as my son had ‘run away’ with an upper-caste girl.”

Illegal detention Aman Singh allegedly arrested Satish, Ravi’s cousin, on May 21 in Delhi and took him to the Khekra police station without any warrant of arrest or any case having been registered. Satish returned to Delhi on May 23. Satish’s father lodged a complaint with the Assistant Commissioner of Police at the Welcome police station in Delhi alleging that Satish was tortured during his illegal detention.

On May 24, Aman Singh allegedly abducted Ravi’s uncle Naresh Kumar from Delhi and took him to Baghpat without any arrest warrant or a case registered against him. A case of abduction was reported to the Delhi Police the same day.

On May 24, Ravi’s sister Meenakshi Kumari and father fled Sankroud to Delhi in the face of persistent threats. Meenakshi Kumari, a student in MM Degree College in Khekra, was to have written her final year Bachelor of Arts examination when the family was forced to flee. Her younger siblings have not been able to attend school for several months now.

Sudhir Rathi allegedly threatened Dharampal over telephone that Meenakshi Kumari would be subjected to rape. A transcript of the telephone conversation was submitted along with the petition in the Supreme Court. Dharampal lodged a complaint with the National Commission for Human Rights and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on May 25 alleging harassment by Krishna’s family and the Uttar Pradesh Police.

On May 27, when Dharampal came to know that Ravi and Krishna were staying with Ravi’s aunt in Meerut, he immediately took them to the Medical College police station in Meerut.

Sub-inspector Ram Chander Singh of the Meerut police station handed over Ravi and Krishna to the Khekra police station. Ravi’s brother then called up Aman Singh, who allegedly suggested that Ravi should be sent to jail. The family alleged that Aman Singh then framed Ravi in a false case under Section 8 of the NDPS Act for possession of poppy husk. Aman Singh also allegedly admitted to having handed over Krishna to her family. During another telephone conversation with Aman Singh, Sumit questioned him about the false implication of Ravi in the NDPS case, to which Aman Singh responded that he could have implicated Ravi in an even graver offence, for the possession of cannabis or opium. Substantial evidence in the form of transcripts of the telephone conversations were submitted to the Supreme Court.

On May 30, members of the Jat community ransacked and looted Ravi’s house in the village and took possession of it. Aman Singh admitted in his telephone conversation with Sumit on the same day that the house was ransacked by Krishna’s relatives and that the keys were in his possession. On June 25, the Additional Sessions Judge of Baghpat granted bail to Ravi. However, he was kept in jail until September 16 as nobody came forward to stand surety for him.

Counter affidavit

In a counter affidavit filed in the Supreme Court on September 10, sub-inspector Ram Chander Singh indicated the possible collusion between Krishna’s family and Aman Singh. He said that on May 27, Dharampal apprised him that Ravi and Krishna were in Meerut. Since the matter involved the jurisdiction of the Khekra police station, Ram Chander Singh informed Aman Singh about the matter. Ram Chander Singh was then instructed by Aman Singh to hold back the couple at the police station as the man was wanted in connection with a case registered against him. Ram Chander Singh specifically mentions in his counter affidavit that when Aman Singh came to arrest the couple, he was accompanied by two family members of the woman. He further notes that no case was registered against the duo in the Meerut police station as the man and the woman were both adults and no cognisable offence could be made out against them. Aman Singh was not available for comment.

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