A 23-year-old law student who accused former Union Minister Chinmayanand of rape was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday, two months after she was arrested on extortion charges.
Chinmayanand was arrested on September 20 after the woman, a student at a law college in Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur, accused him of rape. However, based on a counter-complaint, police also arrested her and three others on charges of trying to extort Rs 5 crore from the former BJP leader.
"We argued that our client has already spent two-and-a-half months in jail when most of the offences registered against her are bailable. We also brought to the court's notice that the investigation in the case was over, a chargesheet had been filed, and the woman herself was a victim of rape. She was granted bail after that," Swetashwa Agarwal, the law student's counsel, said.
The woman has alleged that Chinmayanand, who runs several ashrams and educational institutions, sexually exploited her after helping her gain admission in his law college last year. He is accused of filming her while taking a bath at the hostel, and then raping her after blackmailing her with the video. She was also allegedly brought to his room at gunpoint and forced to give him massages.
The case went public when the student vanished on August 24 after putting up a Facebook post without naming the politician. Chinmayanand's legal team responded by filing an extortion case. The Uttar Pradesh police tracked her down a week later, after which the Supreme Court heard her allegations and ordered an inquiry by a special investigation team.
Although Chinmayanand has been charged under a law that deals with rape, the sub-section applied in his case deals with "misusing authority for sexual intercourse". The reading of the section suggests a watered-down charge that carries a punishment of five to ten years in jail and a fine. A direct rape charge would have meant a seven-year jail term extending to a life term. He has also been charged with stalking, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement.
Officials in the SIT claim that a local BJP leader, identified as DPS Rathore, is also involved in the alleged conspiracy to blackmail Chinmayanand. The younger brother of Uttar Pradesh BJP vice president JPS Rathore, he and his associates allegedly nudged the law student to make extortion demands while trying to strike a separate deal of Rs 1.25 crore with Chinmayanand on the side.