Law

Assam Court Asks Union Minister Rajen Gohain to Appear in Rape Case

Gohain failed to appear before the court on Thursday and reiterated his claim that the charges were a 'planned political conspiracy'.

New Delhi: A local court in Assam on Thursday ordered Union minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain to appear before it on April 5 in the hearing of a rape case.

On Thursday, Gohain, a four-time BJP MP from the Nagaon parliamentary constituency of the state, failed to appear before the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Nagaon. Later, speaking to local media, Gohain said he did not appear as the Gauhati high court had ordered a stay in the case.

In August 2018, a case was filed under the sections 417 (punishment for cheating), 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the minister at the Nagaon Sadar police station for allegedly raping and threatening a 24-year-old married woman in Deurigaon area of Nagaon district. An official at the police station told PTI that the alleged incident took place seven-eight months before the complaint was filed at the complainant’s house, when her husband and family members were away.

However, a week after the case was registered, the complainant’s husband said the family had withdrawn the case and requested the local media to not report on the issue further. By then, the complainant’s statement was already recorded by the investigating officer and reached the court. Police said the case couldn’t be withdrawn at that point.

In the FIR, the complainant reportedly said her sister was also sexually assaulted over a period of two months. She alleged that Gohain tried to lure her with a job offer in the railways. A video clip circulated in social media around that time showed the minister abusing a man, purportedly the complainant’s husband.

Soon after the case was registered, the state Congress demanded Gohain’s removal from the Union cabinet.

In November 2018, the local court summoned Gohain to appear before it on January 8, 2019. Meanwhile, local news reports said Gohain filed a case of blackmail against the complainant. Gohain has been dismissing the allegations as “planned political conspiracy” against him, a claim he reiterated on Thursday.

Gohain ‘clueless’ of issues in parliament: Daimary

A day before the summons were issued, Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, Biswajit Daimary, accused Gohain of being ‘clueless’ of the issues in parliament. This was in the context of a longstanding demand of the Bodo Kacharis residing in the state’s two hill districts, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, and the Karbis living in the plains areas to be included in the scheduled tribes (ST) list. While the Bodos residing in the plains areas are a ST, only the Karbis residing in the hill areas are included in the category.

However, on January 8, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said in the Lok Sabha that a separate Bill would be brought to grant ST status to these two tribes from Assam.

Several civil society groups in Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, though, expressed opposition to the decision. The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) also adopted a resolution opposing it.

Speaking to InsideNe, an Assam-based digital news platform, Daimary, who belongs to the Bodo People’s Front (BPF), a BJP ally, accused Gohain of being “clueless” about issues in parliament. He sai the amendment couldn’t be passed because of Gohain.

“We have a minister Rajen Gohain, but he is clueless about issues in our Parliament, so nobody has taken any interest. Thus, our Bills are all pending; Karbi Anglong’s Bodo and Karbi of the plains areas’ scheduled tribes amendment Bills are being left out. Our Assamese netas failed to do this for our people, (sic)” he said.

The Union cabinet approved the amendment to the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order 1950 in May 2016. The amendment modified the existing list of scheduled tribes in Assam, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu, besides identifying new communities in Puducherry. The Cente later said Bodo, Bodo Kachari and Karbi (Miki) tribes were eligible to be included in the amended list. However, the Bill was never introduced in the Lok Sabha.

Also Read: Scheduled Areas May Be Generating Mineral Wealth, But It’s Not Going to STs

Daimary felt that Gohain, as a Lok Sabha MP from the state and a Union minister, could have taken interest in it. He appreciated Arunachal Lok Sabha MP and minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju for taking the initiative to ensure that a Bill meant for Arunachal tribes was passed in the 16th Lok Sabha.

“Some tribes in Arunachal Pradesh were not listed (in the Constitution Scheduled Tribes Order 1950) and the Bill was raised and it was passed. Kiren Rijiju is always keeping in touch with these issues, so this Bill was passed for Arunachal people,” he added.

The Bill that Daimary referred to was the Constitution (Scheduled Tribe) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2018. It was passed in the Rajya Sabha on the last working day of the winter session. It was introduced in the upper house by tribal affairs minister Jual Oram. After the amendment was approved by the Union cabinet on January 3, the Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha by Rijiju and passed.

The other MP from Arunachal, Congress leader Ninong Ering, wrote to the tribal affairs minister, seeking inclusion of some of these tribes in the revised list. A similar recommendation was also made by the state’s chief minister Pema Khandu. In 2015, Ering introduced a private member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha with the same request.

The amendment approved by parliament for Arunachal would include Galo, Mishmi-Kaman (Miju Mishmi), Idu (Mishmi), Taraon (Digaru, Mishmi), Monpa, Memba, Sartang, Sajolang (Miji), Nocte, Tangsa, Tutsa, Wancho, and Tai Khamti communities in the list. It would remove the existing reference to Abor, Galong, Khampti, Mishmi (Idu, Taroon) tribes, any Naga tribes and Momba.

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