Vakapally Judgement A Moral Victory For Adivasi Women

Judgement was finally pronounced today in the Vakapally case. It may be recalled that on August 20, 2007 a Special Party of 21 policemen had gone to the village of Vakapally in G Madugula mandal of ASR district to conduct combing operations. That very same morning eleven tribal women (Kondhs, belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group, PVTG) complained that they were raped by the policemen who had come to their village for combing operations.

After a protracted battle in the High Court and Supreme Court, the trial began in Visakhapatnam in 2018 and continued for the past four years. Today, that is on 6th April, 2023, the XI Additional District and Sessions Judge cum Special Court under the SC & ST (PoA) Act acquitted the policemen due to a malafide investigation.

The Court held that the acquittal was primarily because of the failure of the two Investigating Officers in not conducting a fair and impartial investigation. Since the first Investigation Officer B Ananda Rao is since deceased, the Court has directed that the second Investigating Officer M Sivananda Reddy be referred to the Apex Committee constituted by the State of Andhra Pradesh. This Committee has been constituted to enquire into the conduct of those investigating officers who have deliberately not conducted proper investigation and scuttled complaints.

Significantly, the court, despite acquitting the policemen, has ordered that the rape survivors should be paid compensation through the District Legal Services Authority. The very fact that the Court has ordered compensation to be paid to the Vakapally rape survivors shows that the Court reposed faith in their depositions.

It also vindicates the long-standing allegation of womens’, adivasi and rights organisations that the investigation was compromised at the very inception of the case. We have consistently held that the investigation from day one was carried out to protect fellow police personnel and was therefore deliberately malicious. None of the procedures mandated by the criminal code was adhered to by the investigating officers. Also, the medical examination followed by the forensic process was deeply vitiated.

Today’s landmark judgement is a major victory for the women of Vakapally (two of whom have since died). They have stood steadfast in their demand for justice. Despite being illiterate in more ways than one, they never gave up their struggle, bravely faced humiliation, subjected themselves to strenuous cross examination in a language that was alien to them and patiently waited for justice all these years.

Y Rajesh – HRF AP State general secretary
VS Krishna – HRF AP&TS Coordination Committee member


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