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Assault on Belagavi woman: Karnataka High Court condemns ‘collective cowardice’

The High Court of Karnataka on Monday condemned the “collective cowardice” of villagers who remained “mute spectators” when a woman was paraded naked and assaulted in Belagavi on December 11 after her son eloped with a girl.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit suggested that the state come up with steps to fix collective responsibility to prevent such incidents.

Hearing a suo motu petition, the bench expressed anguish that nearly 60 villagers remained silent spectators when 13 assailants disrobed the woman. “Some collective responsibility needs to be taken,” it orally observed, adding that the villagers were not assailants or offenders but their inaction was nothing short of passive abetment.

‘Beta Padhao’

Chief Justice Varale orally observed that the emphasis being given to the ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao’ scheme has to be given to educating boys along the lines of ‘Beta Padhao’, as they would learn to respect and protect their sisters.

The high court was told that the gram panchayat president called the police at 3.50 am to inform about the incident. Except one person named Jahangir, who too was beaten up, nobody else intervened.

To this, Justice Krishna Dixit referred to the action taken during the era of William Bentinck (Governor-General of British-occupied India). “Whenever arson/loot would take place, they would identify the village from where the accused hailed, and the entire village was made to pay. It is called ‘Punda Gandhaya’ in Kannada,” he said.

“A village with a population of approximately 8,000… at the time of the incident, there was a gathering of 50-60 people. To the misfortune of the victim, only one person named Jahangir showed the courage to help the victim, and in the process, he himself was subjected to physical assault,” the HC said.

Advocate General (A-G) Shashikiran Shetty submitted a memo with an additional status report on the investigation, compensation and the treatment being offered to the victim. The A-G said Rs 5 lakh has been deposited under the CM’s relief fund while the District Legal Services Authority has awarded an additional compensation of Rs 50,000. Also, over 2 acres of land has been allotted to the woman at Chulki village in Savadatti taluk.

(Published 19 December 2023, 00:23 IST)

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