Judge Felt Agitated Gang Rape Survivor Disrespected Him, Orders Her Arrest

Police in Bihar had made the 22-year-old repeatedly describe her ordeal, then leaked her identity to the neighbourhood. No wonder she was mad.
Pallavi Pundir
Jakarta, ID
India rape culture
A woman being arrested for an alleged "outburst" at an Indian court highlights how deeply rooted bias against women is in the country. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

A court in the eastern state of Bihar on July 10 ordered the arrest of a gang rape survivor whose case is pending before it.

Activists helping the woman with her legal defence told VICE News that since the rape on July 6, the 22-year-old survivor was forced to recount her ordeal “several times” to police officials, who eventually outed her to her family. One of the accused’s family tried to get her to drop the charges with a marriage proposal.


On the day of the arrest, the survivor had an “angry outburst” at the Araria District Court. By then, she had — while waiting to give a statement before the court — spent an hour in close proximity to one of her attackers.

Once inside, the court clerk started a line of questioning that was objected to by the activists. Nevertheless, the statement was recorded. After that, the Magistrate First Class Mustafa Shahi asked her to sign the statement.

“At this point, her dam of emotions broke,” said Ashish Ranjan, secretary of the Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS), to which the activists helping the woman belonged. “She was already traumatised. There was no counsellor. Having to wait with her rapist in the same room, and repeating her ordeal for four-five hours in that heat, took a toll.” The survivor raised her voice to demand the presence of the activists — who had been sent out of the court after her deposition — before signing the statement.

In a statement, JJSS said that judge Shahi, who was visibly upset by her tone, told one of the two activists that the survivor “should be sent to jail for her behaviour”. “He had decided that the survivor and her two activist companions had disrespected him,” said Ranjan.

The court clerk filed a police complaint against the survivor and two JJSS activists for obstructing legal proceedings, using “criminal force” to stop public servants from doing their duty, disobedience and refusing to sign the statement.


Subsequently, the survivor, along with the two activists, one of whom is a woman, were arrested the same day and sent to a 14-day judicial custody.

On July 6, the survivor was allegedly lured to a deserted spot by four men on the pretext of teaching her how to ride a motorcycle, and was raped by all four. She approached two JJSS activists right after that, who took her into their private home and helped her file a police complaint

In the following days, she was made to repeat her ordeal to several police officials. “Multiple times, she was blamed for the crime by the policemen,” said Ranjan. “Besides this, she had to show the police the place where she was raped.” The police officials, in the meantime, leaked her identity, after which her family, who did not know about the incident, found out, along with the rest of the neighbourhood.

VICE News reached out to district Collector Prashanth Kumar, and district and sessions Judge Piyush Kamal Dixit. They refused to comment on the case, and said the matter has been reported to the chief judicial magistrate.

“It’s a judicial order, hence I cannot interfere in it,” Dixit, under whom judge Shahi operates, told The Telegraph. “They (the survivor and the activists) will have to move for bail.”

JJSS has applied for their bail but its activists are unaware of the survivor’s mental health. Thanks to a COVID-19 protocol, the three women are being housed at a jail in Dalsinghsarai, 240 km away. “The girl desperately needs counselling for what she went through. After all that, she is now in jail,” said Ranjan.


This has prompted 376 prominent lawyers to write a letter to the chief justice and other judges of the Patna High Court, which governs Bihar. “[The arrest] has also resulted in the case pertaining to gang-rape having been put on the back-burner,” said the letter.

The Bihar case is the latest in a string of shocking conduct of Indian judicial authorities towards survivors of sexual assault. In June, the High Court of the southern state of Karnataka allowed bail to a rape accused after deciding that it was “unbecoming” of the rape survivor to have slept after being “ravished.”

In another case, the Guwahati High Court in the northeastern state of Assam granted divorce to a man who accused his wife of not wearing the sindoor: vermillion that women in Hindu tradition wear on their forehead. It also quashed the woman’s complaint of harassment from her husband and his family.

In the latest National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data from 2018, one woman in India reported a rape every 15 minutes. "The country is still run by men. Most judges are still men," Lalitha Kumaramangalam, former chief of the National Commission for Women, told Indian news outlet Indian Today .

In 2013, after a brutal gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi led to the death sentence of the rape accused, the Indian government amended the rape law. A “tougher” one redefined rape and made punishments more stringent, including sending repeat rape offenders to the gallows.


Experts say it’s difficult to gauge whether things improved after 2013 because there’s no comparative data. “From my experience, not much has changed on the ground,”

Rebecca John, Delhi-based advocate who took up legal cases of women during the country’s #MeToo movement, told VICE News.

“Judges continue to look at rape survivors suspiciously, and are quick to label them as being difficult or as someone who disturbs the peace and quiet of the court room. Often they are condemned for not reacting enough,” said John.

In 2018, the NCRB recorded 34,000 rapes, out of which 85 percent led to charges and only 27 percent convictions.

“Why do women feel the need to speak their truths on social media and not access the legal system?” said John. “The reason why movements like #MeToo came up is because the courts have failed to provide justice to women.”

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