Verdict in Birbhum gangrape case tells why Kangaroo courts should be prudent in their judgement

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A West Bengal Court sentenced 13 people to life imprisonment for the gang-rape of a tribal girl on the orders of a Kangaroo court in Birbhum district in January 2014.

Even the Supreme Court's March 24 judgement in the case took a giant stride of a precedent because it clearly gave a message and tells what needs to be done when the government machinery not only protects, but is in cahoots with the culprits.

What was the Birbhum gangrape case

A 20-year old tribal woman was allegedly gangraped at Labhpur in Birbhum district by 13 persons as they were apparently against her affair with a man from a different community.

the incident happened following a meeting by her community leaders who decided to mete out the 'punishment' for her 'crime' of being in love with someone outside her community.

The alleged atrocity, unheard of in Bengal in recent memory, took place at Subalpur village, which falls under Labhpur police station.

The morol (community's head) accused my daughter of breaking tribal rules. The morol and villagers close to him said the boy and the girl should pay Rs 25,000 each as fine.

After the girl said she will not be able to pay the money, the morol also ruled that the girl had broken tribal rules and thus would be gang-raped by the villagers.

Kangaroo courts, also known as shalishi sabhas are operated in some Bengal villages which gave this judgement.

What is Kangaroo Court?

As per wikipedia, "A kangaroo court is a judicial tribunal or assembly that blatantly disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides."

In past, unconscionable forms of punishment, such as social ostracism, sexual violence in lieu of monetary penalty have been given by these courts.

What is the latest development?

A court in Bengal sentenced on Saturday 13 people to life imprisonment for the gang-rape of a tribal girl on the orders of a village council in Birbhum district around eight months ago.

On January 21, a tribal girl from Subolpur village in Birbhum was gang-raped by a group of men on the orders of a kangaroo court for having an affair with a boy from another community.

The incident had sent a shock wave across the nation. Even the Supreme Court took stock and directed the district magistrate of Birbhum to submit a report.

What did SC say regarding this case?

On January 24, the Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident and had directed the district judge to visit the place and file a report to it.

On January 31, the apex court directed the West Bengal chief secretary to respond on what action police had taken in this case of gangrape.

A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam, S A Bobde and N V Ramana also said the state government has failed to protect the fundamental right of the victim.

After going through the report of the chief secretary, the bench had said the state government had not taken effective steps.

The Supreme Court later directed the West Bengal government to pay Rs five lakh compensation in addition to already sanctioned Rs 50,000 to the 20-year-old Birbhum gang-rape victim.

What was SC's ruling on such courts?

In 2011, the Supreme Court termed Khap panchayats as kangaroo courts and declared them illegal.

The Supreme Court ruling said that Khap panchayats are wholly illegal and have to be ruthlessly stamped out.

But, due to support from some prominent politicians and illiterate villagers they continue to deliver bizarre judgments.

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