Analysis: Systemic Failure In Not Forcing Prajwal Revanna To Face The Law

Given that Prajwal Revanna is not in India, the CBI becomes the nodal agency in sending requests to the interpol to have notices issued.

Analysis: Systemic Failure In Not Forcing Prajwal Revanna To Face The Law

Prajwal Revanna, the sitting MP from Karnataka's Hassan, is still on the run.

New Delhi:

Given the public outcry and mass mobilisation that we have seen over, at least, some high profile cases of sexual assault on women, it needs to be asked if the reaction to the Prajwal Revanna sexual crimes, including rape, case has been muted, socially and politically.

Is it being seen more in the realm of a political exchange and less as what it should be - a case of multiple rapes and sexual assaults. Yes, no one is guilty till proven so in a court of law and politics is filled with wild allegations, but here there are videos and statements by victims against the JDS Hassan member of parliament and, in a bulldozer justice era, the least that needs to be ensured is he is questioned by authorities and faces due process.

A group of over 100 intellectuals in Karnataka wrote a petition to the Chief Minister seeking his immediate arrest. The authors listed a few demands - from providing a safe environment for the witnesses, seeking immediate arrest of the driver of Prajwal (who is believed to have approached some political leaders with the pen drive containing the horrific and sleazy Prajwal videos ), demanding cases to be booked against family member as accomplices and requesting interrogation of politicians, intelligence and police officials who may have colluded to help Prajwal leave the country before a case was registered on the 28th of April.

There are serious moral questions to the JDS on why it hasn't forced Prajwal back or even take political action to force him back. It seems more interested in attacking the Congress for leaking the videos, who leaked the videos by itself is an important matter of investigations but the first focus is the getting their MP before the law. There are questions over the BJP trying to distance itself from the case and not aggressively forcing it's ally the JDS to act on the case. Also, if the centre should be more aggressive in this case.  

There are also questions to the Congress which rules the State and investigators if they are treating this case as severely as they should. Or is the Congress looking at this with a post poll political calculus in mind.

This really needs rise above a Congress Vs JDS-BJP exchange or a Centre versus State issue. There are crucial questions over whether the investigators, prosecutors and courts have been aggressive enough in this case.

For instance, twenty days on we are still only at a blue-collar notice. There are questions over whether his passport ought to have been cancelled by now or if the prosecutors should have at least moved the court for an order to impound or cancel his passport or other stern actions to force him back. This is not just about procedural, legal action but also the optics and public pressure in the case. 

Given that Prajwal is not in India, the CBI becomes the nodal agency in sending requests to the interpol to have notices issued. From a pedestrian point of view, a blue corner notice is to say that there is a look out for a person, but a red corner notice is declaring him or her a proclaimed offender, technically making him a criminal wherever he or she is. There is no clarity on what steps have been taken to move towards such a notice.

When there are serious charges like rape involved, with punishment of over 7 years, there is no arrest warrant required. The accused could face direct arrest anywhere in India. Investigators say the process of collection of evidence is still in progress to build the case for a red corner notice. But there are multiple statements from victims that have been recorded before the magistrate under section 164 of the CRPC. In rape and sexual assault cases, even an uncorroborated statement by a victim has significant evidentiary value and in this case there is also alleged videographic evidence.

Certainly, all sides are beginning to seem like they lack the will to force Prajwal back to even merely face investigations.

Prajwal's father H D Revanna was arrested in a case of abduction and spent six days in jail before being released on bail on Tuesday. He faces another case of molestation as well, where he has been granted interim bail and final order is expected on 24th. There are concerns as we move further away in time that the focus on the case, and hence the case itself, would only get weaker.

Meanwhile, the JDS has demanded a CBI probe into the case. Prajwal clearly seems to be biding time till the election results are out. While it shouldn't matter who wins or loses, the fear is it will.

It is a dangerous precedent if a sitting MP is being allowed to dodge investigators in a case of rape and irrespective of the political mud-slinging, a clear, transparent and aggressive investigation is the least that needs to be ensured.

He doesn't have to be vilified or portrayed as guilty till the due process is followed, but ensuring the due process is followed is a responsibility of the State, the Centre, the Congress, BJP, JDS, media and civil society.