A 22-year-old woman who filed a police complaint alleging gangrape in Bihar’s Araria district has been arrested on charges of disrupting court proceedings on July 10. She had demanded the presence of social workers during the recording of her statement before a magistrate, said members of the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, a non-profit organisation that helped her through the process of filing a first information report with the Araria police.

Two social workers who had accompanied her to the court – Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita – have also been arrested. All three are in judicial custody at a jail in Samastipur district, 250 km from Araria.

Four unidentified men allegedly raped the woman on the night of July 6. They are yet to be arrested. A fifth accused, who was known to the woman and who allegedly abetted the sexual assault, has been arrested.

On July 10, when the woman went to the district court to record her statement, the social workers were not allowed to be with her in the magistrate’s chamber. During the proceedings, the woman gave her oral statement to the court but allegedly refused to sign a written statement, demanding that Kalyani Badola and the other social workers be allowed to read the statement first. Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita later attempted to intervene and help her.

Both the social workers as well as the woman were then arrested on charges of disrupting court proceedings and using foul language towards court officials. They have been booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to preventing public servants from carrying out their duty, as well as sections of the Contempt of Courts Act.

In a statement protesting their arrest, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan said the survivor was in an agitated state at the time of giving her statement in court, not just because of the trauma of the gang rape but also because she had been made to narrate her experience multiple times during the police investigation in the four days since the incident. She also had no support from her family or access to a mental health professional, and her identity had been revealed in local media reports about the incident.

“She had been held responsible for the incident several times,” the statement said. “Family members of the [fifth] accused also kept trying to meet her and convince her to marry him.” On the day of the court proceedings, the survivor had to spend over four hours waiting in the court’s corridors in the presence of the fifth accused.

“It is true that she got very agitated and upset in court and refused to sign the statement, but she had been in a state of trauma for four days,” said Kamayani Swami, a social worker with the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan. Swami said that the woman did eventually sign the statement.

Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan has demanded the immediate release of the rape survivor, Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita on “humanitarian grounds”, because of the risk of them catching Covid-19 in jail. “We also believe that the court has failed to understand the mental state of the survivor,” the organisation added.