- Several women were assaulted by Sri Ram Sene at a pub in 2009
- 9 years later, 26 of 30 accused were acquitted citing 'lack of evidence'
- Pramod Muthalik and Sri Ram Sene are notorious for medieval-style diktats
Nine years after the incident, a local court acquitted 26 of the 30 men accused in the case on March 12, including Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, citing 'lack of evidence'.
"...the evidence made available by the prosecution falls short of legal evidence to establish the accusations or charges leveled against the accused persons. Thus, under the above circumstances, I am of the clear opinion that the prosecution has failed to bring home the guilt of accused persons beyond all shadow of doubt," the court order read.
The verdict came as a shocker to those who opposed moral policing, given the act had been caught on camera by locals and the media. However, the court order stated that no such evidence had been produced in the court. "In order to prove the involvement of the accused persons those videos and photographs are plays [sic] very important role and those videos and photographs are the material evidence in this case...Non-production of the videos and photographs is fatal to the prosecution case."
Testimonies of the 12 eyewitnesses, four of whom were employees of the pub, did not corroborate with the prosecution's account of the attack. Moreover, all of them failed to prove the involvement of the accused. "No eye witnesses are deposed [sic] about the presence of the accused persons on the alleged time and place of incident."
The order further stated that the prosecution failed to bring forth the testimonies of the victims which would be tantamount in proving the guilt of the accused. "Non-securing the victim women is fatal to the prosecution and it creates the doubt in the mind of this court about the involvement of the accused persons as alleged by the prosecution."
Pramod Muthalik said that the verdict was a "victory of the truth" and is now considering filing a defamation suit despite having apologized for the brazen attack in the past. Muthalik is now considering filing a defamation suit against the Congress, which was at the center at the time of the attack, and the BJP, which was governing the state, for "mental, physical and financial torture". Meanwhile, local activists have requested the state to file an appeal at the high court.
With state elections a few months away, the state's Congress government may be inclined to challenge the order; the pub attack took place when the opposition BJP was in power. "It is a big setback... Legal departments and the police should look to see if an appeal is possible," said Dinesh Gundu Rao, who heads the Congress in the state.
In 2014, months ahead of the national election, Muthalik was recruited by the BJP and then disowned within five hours. An embarrassed BJP leadership in Delhi expressed surprise at the decision of the party's unit in Karnataka.