A special court of Varanasi Saturday acquitted Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Atul Rai in an alleged rape case of a 24-year-old woman, who, along with her friend, died by suicide in front of the Supreme Court in August last year. The woman had lodged a rape case against Rai in 2019. An MP from Ghosi, Rai is currently lodged in Naini jail.
“Additional District and Session Judge Siyaram Chaurasia today (Saturday) acquitted Atul Rai of rape. The court examined nine prosecution witnesses and a few of them did not fully support the prosecution theory,” said government counsel Jyoti Shankar Upadhyay. He added that the court also examined 15 witnesses of defence. Upadhyay, however, said that the woman and her friend’s statements were recorded before their death which totally supported the prosecution theory.
Rai’s younger brother Pawan Kumar Singh told the media it has been proved now that the MP was falsely implicated by some people in the rape case. “I request the state government to take strict action against the people who framed my brother,” said Singh.
Atul Rai had contested the Parliament election on a BSP ticket from inside the jail and had emerged victorious. Even after acquittal in the rape case, Rai’s lawyer Anuj Yadav told the media that the MP will continue to remain in jail in the pending case of abetment of suicide filed in Lucknow.
When contacted, the victim’s lawyer Rajesh Yadav said they would file an appeal against the judgment in the High Court. “We will not let Atul Rai escape so easily,” Rajesh Yadav said.
According to the prosecution, the case dates back to 2018 when the victim had filed a police complaint stating that Rai had been allegedly sexually harassing her for nearly a year. She claimed that the first incident occurred in 2018 when she had visited the MP’s apartment in Varanasi to meet his family members, including his wife.
The woman, a resident of Mau and a student at a university in Varanasi, also complained that Rai allegedly recorded the sexual assault and threatened to circulate it on social media if she went to the police. Later, on the basis of a complaint filed by the woman, a case was lodged against Rai on various charges, including rape and criminal intimidation, in May 2019 in Varanasi. The police also invoked provisions of the Information and Technology Act against him. On June 22, 2019, Rai surrendered before a court which sent him to judicial custody.
On August 16 last year, the woman and her 27-year-old friend first went live on Facebook and narrated their ordeal and then died by suicide in from of the top court. The duo also accused the Uttar Pradesh Police of supporting Rai.
She further alleged that senior police officers of Uttar Pradesh were not acting on their complaint. The duo claimed that the threats and the harassment had made them choose death. They also alleged that retired IPS officer Amitabh Thakur helped Rai and harassed them.
Later, the Uttar Pradesh Police booked Rai and Thakur, for abetment of suicide. A case was lodged against Rai and Thakur at Hazratganj police station in Lucknow. Thakur was forced to retire by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in March last year in “public interest”.