AP High Court orders that 13 policemen will face trial for charges of gang rape in the case of Vakapalli tribal women.

The Vakapalli rape case has been coming up for hearing in the Andhra Pradesh High Court since the last three weeks.

Justice Seshasayana Reddy of the AP High Court on Thursday directed a lower court to conduct the trial against 13 cops for allegedly raping 11 tribal women in Vakapalli village of Visakhapatnam district in August 2007. The judge told the judicial first class magistrate of Paderu to conduct an identification parade of the accused and then proceed against them. The judge gave the verdict after hearing the plea of 21 policemen who sought quashing of proceedings against them in the crime.

Justice Seshasayana Reddy ruled that eight policemen who were part of a Contour Party were outside the village at the time of the offence and could not have committed the crime. It was alleged that the 11 tribal women were raped by the armed cops when they visited the place during combing operations against Naxalites on August 8, 2007. Earlier, the Crime Investigation Department had investigated the case and closed it citing lack of evidence. The victims challenged it before the magistrate and he ordered an investigation. The HC stayed the probe and the victims then approached the Supreme Court. The apex court in November 2010 asked the High Court to hear the case within six months.
While discharging the eight constables P. Ravi Kumar, K. Purnachander Rao, P. Pavan Kumar, B. Gangadhara Rao, K. Ram Babu, Ch. Suresh Babu, G. Muthyala Raju and S. Venkata Rao from the case, the judge directed judicial first class magistrate of Paderu to conduct proceedings against A. Ravi Kumar, D. Ravi, B. Ravi Kumar, D.V.R. Suresh, R. Srinu, K. Devullu, T. Prasad, Ch. Vijaya Kumar, S. Tata Babu, D. Simhachalam, R. Chandrasekhar, R. Devanadh and S. Srinivasa Rao.

Contempt case on CID chief

The High Court will hear an appeal on Friday by the CID challenging an order of a single judge directing the Registry to issue suo motu contempt proceedings against the CID chief S.V. Ramana Murthy. Earlier, Justice Ramesh Ranganathan granted an order by directing the registry to issue contempt proceedings against the DGP V. Dinesh Reddy and Ramana Murthy for suppressing facts before the court in a plea filed by senior IPS officer Umesh Kumar.

It may be recalled that in August 2007 eleven tribal women belonging to the tribal hamlet Vakapalli, Paderu Mandal, Visakhapatnam district were raped by twenty one police men who had come to the village as part of combing operations. The local police station and several functionaries of the government denied the charges of rape. Large scale mobilization by tribal and women’s groups forced the state to order an investigation by the CB-CID. However, the CBCID conducted a lackluster investigation and filed a report that it was a false case. Its main contention was that there were no injuries on the women, no semen stains and that the women were unable to identify the accused. Despite the negative report of the police, a junior woman magistrate of Paderu believed the tribal women and took cognizance of the case. The Magistrate wrote that rape can be perpetrated without leaving physical injuries and semen stains.   Within a week of the cognizance taken by the Magistrate, the accused police men petitioned the AP High Court and obtained a stay of proceedings. This stay came in 2008 and all proceedings came to a halt. After four years, the case has now come up for final hearing before Justice Seshasayana Reddy. Both the public prosecutor as well as the counsel for the policemen repeated in unison the same arguments about absence of injuries and medical evidence of sexual intercourse.

Senior Counsel Tarakam who appeared for the tribal women vehemently contended that absence of injuries and semen stains can be no bar for prosecution. How can eye witness evidence be disbelieved just because there was no medical evidence? He insisted that the court should believe the statements of the women in toto. He also argued that the victim women should not be made to bear the brunt of a deliberately defective investigation. One was not sure about the outcome of the case. Clearly, except oral testimonies, there was no other evidence.

What little evidence that was available was wiped out by the investigation. Against all these odds, Justice Seshasayana Reddy ordered in the women’s favour. Of the 21 policemen, he held that the trial will continue against 13 policemen and acquitted eight others. The eight were acquitted on the ground that they were part of a contour party and outside the village.

The 13 policemen will now have to face trial for charges of gang rape and atrocities under the SC ST Atrocities Act. The trial will not start immediately. The policemen will surely move the Supreme Court for another round of litigation.   But, as of today, there is the satisfaction of having convinced one judge that such stuff happens and that a ‘judicial decision’ has to be rendered with minimal evidence.