Sexual harassment has, unfortunately, become a very common occurrence in our country. While a couple of years ago, people were afraid to report incidents of harassment because of the fear and stigma attached to it, it is not the same anymore. The number of cases being reported these days has gone up manifold, a lot of the credit for which goes to easy accessibility of mediums such as social media. As much as this has opened floodgates to get those responsible for the crime behind the bars, we cannot ignore the fact that at times, it has also jumped to conclusions permanently tampering the image of the accused.
In yet another recent incident, a cab driver was falsely accused of raping a woman. The woman cried foul, social media went all out to ‘give her justice’ and the accused, 35-year-old Ramesh Kumar, was put behind the bars.
Four months into the jail, and the court declared him NOT guilty. He walked away freely with his head held high, but alas! The damage had been caused. His family was treated like an outcast in his neighbourhood, his kids were taunted at school and his brother went into depression.
It was the eve of April 9 when he was dropping off a female customer to Dwarka. After the ride, when it was time for him to collect the payment of ₹500, the woman tried to flee and a brawl ensued. By then, passers-by alerted the PCR, cops came, and the girl accused him of molesting her. The police was quick to take action and Kumar, despite pleading innocence, was put behind bars.
In an interview with Times Of India, Ramesh shares his traumatic experience as a falsely accused victim.
“I did not get any sleep at night. I recalled each and every scene from that night but couldn’t figure out why I was here. Should I have allowed her to go without paying my fare just because she was a woman? I told cops to get her medically examined but they said they were bound by law and that I will have to prove my innocence in court,” Kumar told TOI.
While Kumar was in jail, his family was allegedly asked to pay ₹5 lakh to the ‘victim’ to ‘settle’ the matter. However, his wife said she had faith in the judiciary. “We were struggling to meet our ends here and they were demanding such a huge amount. We didn’t say a word as we had faith in the judiciary,” she told TOI.
Apart from living in jail with criminals for months, Kumar ‘s family had to struggle to make both ends meet. His wife, who was now frail and sick, had to make do with ₹100 per day to ensure that the family didn’t sleep hungry, as did his brother, who went into depression because of his inability to provide for them.
Thanks to a fast-track court, Kumar’s fate changed soon and he was acquitted of the false charges. He said, “I and my family went home with my head held high after months. We stood outside our home and spoke to neighbours. There was unease but we were happy. The blot was off my head. I am hoping things will change for good.”
However, not all those who are falsely accused get as lucky as Kumar. Sometimes it takes them years and years to prove their innocence. Clearly, Kumar is not the only one who had to suffer for no fault of his. In 2013 alone. 53% of rape cases filed against men were false.
While we continue to fight for the cause of women safety , let’s not be quick to jump to conclusions and forget this other cause that we call humanity.
Note: A previous version of this article mentioned that Kumar was accused of harassment, not rape.