Chennai woke up to a shocker on the morning of 16th July 2018. Newspapers flashed in front pages about the rape of a 11 year old hearing impaired child in Chennai. The newspapers quickly called it “Ayanavaram rape case” and started giving out shocking details.
In a couple of days, to the shock of the entire state, details emerged that the 11 year old school going child was raped by 17 men from her neibhourhood for a period of six months. The perpetrators aged between 23 to 60. It was all started by a 56 year old lift operator Ravikumar of the flat where this girl resided. After initially sexually assaulting this girl, the lift operator passed on this information to a plumber working in the same flat.
The apartment complex which had around 394 housing units had several employees for various works like plumbing, gardening, security, house keeping etc. The plumber Suresh who is a 32 year old, passed on this information to security guards, a gardener, an electrician and a few other employees of that same apartment complex. Slowly the news spread and a total of 17 people sexually assaulted the 11 year old girl for a period of more than six months.
The parents of the child, who were not aware of what is happening to their child came to know of this barbarism only in July 2018 when the child complained of acute pain. The crime was so brutal, that the author doesn’t wish to discuss the details here. The parents being well aware of the stigma attached to such incidents, decided to file a complaint. They filed a complaint in the Ayanavaram All Women police station. As news about this monstrous crime spread in the media, there was a hue and cry for instant justice in the media and public. Almost all political leaders demanded a thorough investigation speedy justice. Conspiracy theories were floated in social media groups that several political heavy weights were involved. Human rights groups too threw their in their weight and mounted pressure on the police.
The police did not get swayed by the overwhelming public pressure for a quick ‘fake encounter’. Chennai Police commissioner immediately formed a task force and directed the then Deputy Commissioner of Police, Kilpauk S.Rajendran to secure all the accused immediately. Police swiftly secured all the accused and brought them into custody.
S.Rajendran, who is now DC Flower Bazaar spoke to Savukku about the investigation. “Initially we were shocked. We were unable to believe how can 17 people do this to a hearing impaired child. That too by men as old as 60. However, after we secured a few accused, shocking details emerged. Most of them confessed to the crime and from the information we got, we managed to arrest all the accused” said Rajendran.
All the arrested accused were sent for judicial remand. Identification parade was conducted in Puzhal prison by judicial officers and all details were recorded. The mobile phones seized from a few accused revealed that they were regularly in the habit of watching porn. The girl was sent for medical examination. Forensic laboratory was addressed for examination of evidence collected.
In the meanwhile, the accused started filing applications for bail both in the lower courts and in High Court. The police managed to convince the courts about the seriousness of the crime and the danger of accused tampering with evidence. Courts were convinced and the repeated bail applications by the accused were dismissed.
A few of the accused adopted a different strategy and filed a plea for CBI probe in Madras High Court. It was turned down. Special Public Prosecutor N.Ramesh said, “everyday there will be one petition or other by any one of the 17 accused. They used all the legal recourses available to them to ensure the trial is delayed. However, from the prosecution side, we filed counters to all their petitions and ensured their frivolous pleas are dismissed by the courts” said Ramesh.
Rajendran IPS said, “it was a challenge to file charge sheet within 60 days. The amendment brought in Criminal Procedure Code in April 2018 making it mandatory to file charge sheet in rape cases within 60 days was mounting pressure on us. Though we prepared the charge sheet in time, the Deputy Director of Prosecution Thiru.Gopinath, was in Madurai. We sent the draft charge sheet through a special messenger and got it approved in time.”
Trial commenced before the Mahila Court Judge RN.Manjula. Copies were furnished and charges were quickly framed. Trial commenced from 20.12.2018. The accused filed petitions for discharge, quashing of charges, in Trial Court and in High Court. But all their please were dismissed and trial commenced. Trial was taken up on a day today basis.
The 17 accused engaged 10 defence counsels and the 36 prosecution witnesses were cross-examined by these 10 defence counsels separately. According to Special PP Ramesh, the defence counsel did not even spare the child victim. “They almost harassed the victim, under the guise of cross-examination. Many times, the Judge had to interfere and disallow the questions” said Ramesh.
Not only the victim, many prosecution witnesses have also been harassed. Since most of the defence of the accused were shattered, they started shaming the victim, says Ramesh. “One counsel for the accused went to the extent of saying that the victim’s elder sister is a loose moralled character. Another counsel said, the family of the victim is into prostitution” said Ramesh.
However, all the accused were given adequate opportunities to defend themselves so that this should not affect the case of the prosecution. Finally orders were reserved on 6th December 2019. The Trial Court delivered its verdict on 1st of February 2020, convicting all the 16 accused except one. Of the total 17 accused, A.10 Babu, expired during the trial. The quantum of sentence for the accused are to be pronounced on Monday, 3rd of February.
Expressing happiness about the verdict, Advocate and human rights activist Sudha Ramalingam said, “This verdict is a welcome verdict. This verdict has proved the competency of the police that they can do flawless investigation and take the investigation to its logical conclusion. The trial has ensured justice both to the victim and the perpetrators. The acquittal of one accused among the 16 has also proved that courts go by evidence and not by emotions” said Sudha Ramalingam.
The TN police could have easily bumped a few of the accused in a fake encounter and satisfied the public’s thirst for blood. When the news about this rape was spreading there lynch-mob mentality was overwhelming and the social media was fuelling the fire. Instead of taking law into their own hand, the police trusted the judiciary and their investigation skills.
Speaking to Savukku, Chennai Commissioner of Police AK.Viswanathan said, “We don’t do fake encounters. We go by law. True, there were demands for encounter.
The verdict today by the Mahila court is the outcome of team work. Our officers led by Deputy Commissioner of Police S.Rajendran did a splendid job. Rajendran arrested all the 17 accused swiftly, preventing them from fleeing. Special PP N.Ramesh, guided the investigation and conducted the trial well. The Investigation Officer K.Vijayachandrika did a commendable job. In the end, our investigation skills and the help of several good souls paved way for this result. We could not have achieved without their help” said Viswanathan.
Human rights activists and people who believe in the rule of law were stunned by the overwhelming joy and celebration following the fake encounter done by the Hyderabad police of the accused alleged to have raped and killed a young doctor.
— ANI (@ANI) December 6, 2019
People showered petals and poured glorious praise on the Telangana police for the swift justice. No one wanted to wait for a trial to take place in accordance with our system of criminal jurisprudence.
In the Parliament, during a discussion on the issue, MPs called for extreme measures—while Samajwadi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan called for a public lynching, AIADMK’s Vijila Sathyananth called for the accused to be hanged before December 31 while DMK’s P Wilson wanted rape convicts castrated before they were released from jails.
The Chennai City Police and its officers deserve all praise for their trust in the rule of law and their level headedness. They maintained their balance and conducted a meticulous investigation which has yielded a brilliant result today.
The counterparts of Tamil Nadu police across the country should learn from this case about how to conduct an investigation, believe in the rule of law, conduct the trial earnestly and ensure a fruitful result.