“A policeman will never investigate the crime of another policeman,” one of the tribal women allegedly gangraped in 2007 by a group of police personnel in Andhra Pradesh, told The Indian Express on Sunday.

On April 6, a district court in Vishakhapatnam acquitted all 13 policemen who had been accused of gangraping 11 women in Andhra Pradesh’s Alluri Sitharama Raju district on August 20, 2007. The investigating officer in the case had failed to conduct a fair and impartial inquiry, the court held, according to The News Minute.

Special Judge L Sridhar, however, directed that action be taken against the investigating officer and compensation be paid to the women.

“Justice has eluded us,” the tribal woman quoted above told The Indian Express. “The only silver lining is the court’s order to provide compensation to us, which means it believes that we are victims.”

The gangrape case

Eleven women of the belonging to the Kondh tribe had alleged that the policemen gangraped them at gunpoint during a combing operation conducted by a special anti-Maoist team in the Vakapalli village of Alluri Sitharama Raju district of Andhra Pradesh in August 2007.

Right from delay in registering the first information report and conducting medical examinations, the investigation in the case was slow and strewn with lapses, the women have alleged.

A case had been registered under Section 376(2) (rape by police officer) of the Indian Penal Code and various provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act. However, trial in the case began only in August 2018 – following intervention by the Supreme Court, 11 years after the alleged gangrape, The News Minute reported.

Two of the 11 women had even died by the time the trial started.

Lapses in investigation

The Vishakapatnam district court has noted in its verdict that the police registered an FIR in the matter on August 26, 2007, six days after the women complained that they had been raped, Special Public Prosecutor Sunkara Rajendra Prasad, told The Indian Express.

On August 27, 2007, the state government had appointed Deputy Superintendent of Police of Visakhapatnam Rural, B Ananda Rao, to investigate the allegations. However, Rao did not visit the village till September 8, the court noted. The crime scene was not secured, evidence was not collected and statements of the complainants were not recorded for 17 days after the alleged gangrape.

After the six-day delay in registering the FIR, the police waited another two days to send the women for medical examinations. The police also tried to send the women to a hospital which had inadequate facilities to conduct the tests, the court said, according to The Indian Express.

No identification test for the accused persons was done till the trial started in 2018.

Another woman who was among the complainants, told The Indian Express that they were ostracised in their village after the incident. “We were subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment by our husbands and village elders,” she said. “...We were not allowed to interact even with our children. We were allowed back into our houses after several days and had to keep taking purification baths.”