Marathi actor, producer held for sexual exploitation

 
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Pune, Dec 26 (UNI) City police today arrested a leading Marathi film actor, Ramesh Bhatkar, and producer Ravi Naidu for alleged sexual exploitation of a 17-year-old girl on the promise of giving her a role in a Marathi film.

A complaint was filed against the uncle and aunt of the victim -- Dilip Karve and Jayshree Karve -- allegedly of being accomplices in the crime. The girl has also accused former Congress corporator Bhagwan Vairat and Ashok Londhe of sexual exploitation.

Both Bhatkar and Naidu, along with Dilip Karve and his wife Jayshree, were later produced before the Shivajinagar district court, where an irate mob of about 50 people comprising the activists of Republican Party of India (RPI) and the NGOs were waiting in the court premises. As soon as they arrived, the mob ran towards the duo. However, Bhatkar managed to escape but Naidu was allegedly been beaten up by the mob.

The four moved an anticipatory bail application in the court.

While moving the bail application, Bhatkar's lawyer Vijay Nahar told the court that his client was not involved in the case.

Naidu, on the other hand, told the court that the girl's mother was a maid-servant at his home till a few days ago. Two months ago, she had demanded Rs 10,000 from him for her daughter's marriage. But he did not give it which, he thinks, could be the reason for her to file a police compliant against him.

Following this, the court granted them the bail till January 5.

However, Vairat and Londhe, who have been implicated in the case, are still at large, police said.

Bhatkar's wife was a Judge in Mumbai.

A case was registered with the Wanowari police station late last night on the basis of a complaint filed by the victim's mother that Naidu lured the girl with the promise of giving her a role in a Marathi film and allegedly raped her since March at his farmhouse in Ghorpadi Peth.

The complaint further stated that Bhatkar and Vairat, too, sought sexual favours from the girl in August at the actor's residence on Paud road. The duo, however, let the girl free when she raised an alarm. Their act amounted to a case of molestation, said the police complaint.

The victim, in a confessional statement, stated that her maternal uncle and aunt -- Dilip Kavare and Jayashree -- took her to Naidu, thus aiding and abetting in the crime.

The police have booked Naidu, a lesser-known producer, under section 376 (rape) of IPC, while the rest have been charged under sections 34 (co-accused), 353 and 366 (molestation) of IPC.

Additional Police Commissioner Vivek Phanasalkar told UNI that ''the girl has undergone medical tests and the reports are awaited.

The investigation in this case is on and if needed, the police would not hesitate to act against any of the accused.'' He further said the girl was being subjected to all kinds of medical tests to ascertain whether she was a habitual offender to sexual worker, or if there were any marks on her body.

Sources close to Bhatkar however said ''The actor was shocked to hear the charges.'' They said he had vehemently denied the charges, saying all that have been stated against him in the complaint was ''absolutely false''.

''Many young people come to him seeking his help for getting a role in the films. But he tells them that he is not a director or producer, who can offer any role. He does not know why is this girl levelling such allegations against him that too after such a long period of time,'' the sources said.

When asked if Bhatkar knew the girl, the sources said ''Last year, a girl, along with her mother, had come to meet him on the sets of a Marathi film '100 crore'. The girl's mother requested him to see if he could do something to offer her daughter a role in the film. But he told them that he could not help them in this regard.'' The victim, on the other hand, alleged that ''I was told by Bhatkar and others that if I wanted to grow, I should be ready for all such things. When I threatened Bhatkar that I would lodge a police complaint against him following the assault, the actor replied that his wife is a Judge in Mumbai and he will go scot-free.'' Another accused, Naidu, could not be contacted.

Bhatkar, a senior Marathi actor, had been in the industry for almost two decades and had worked in many Marathi serials and films.

UNI

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