2-year jail for 11 in Assam molestation, journalist who shot footage acquitted
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A city court Friday convicted 11 of the 16 accused in the sensational case of molestation on the posh G S Road in July, but let off a reporter from a local TV station who filmed the incident, which was then aired on his channel.
Among those convicted is prime accused Amar Jyoti Kalita, pictures of whom leading the molesters wearing a red T-shirt triggered national outrage. Kalita was arrested in Varanasi a full fortnight after the July 9 crime.
All the convicts have been awarded the maximum punishment of two years in jail permissible under Section 354 (assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of IPC. They have 30 days to appeal to the sessions court.
Kamrup chief judicial magistrate S P Moitra gave the benefit of doubt to Gaurav Jyoti Neog, then a reporter with the Guwahati-based NewsLive channel. Three other accused — Jitumoni Deka, Diganta Basumatary and Hafijuddin — were acquitted along with him.
Neog and the channel's editor-in-chief Atanu Bhuyan were forced to quit following the outcry after footage of the assault on a young woman in the heart of Guwahati was played endlessly on TV and went viral on the Internet after being uploaded on YouTube. Neog resigned on July 15, and was arrested on July 21.
A sixteenth accused was found to be a minor and has been referred to the Juvenile Justice Board.
In his 45-page judgment, CJM Moitra found Amar Jyoti Kalita and 10 others guilty under IPC Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 354. The woman was molested on the busy G S Road for some 40 minutes as most passers-by preferred not to stop. A Guwahati-based newspaper journalist and an off-duty policeman finally intervened before police arrived.
After rights groups took up the matter and the Assam government was criticised heavily, a Special Investigation Team was set up under SP (Operation) Ranjan Bhuyan. The chargesheet was submitted on September 4.