SIT in a quandary over Ramesh Jarkiholi case

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) has almost completed its probe into the alleged rape case against former BJP Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi. However, sources claim that saddled with “weak” and often contradictory evidence, the SIT has been yet to conclude its findings.

The probe was launched after a CD was released in March with clips of Jarkiholi allegedly abusing a woman and seeking sexual favours from her in return for a government job. The SIT was formed based on the complaint by the woman in the video, even as Mr. Jarkiholi filed a case against unidentified individuals for trying to blackmail and extort money using the video.

Senior officials told The Hindu that there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute Mr. Jarkiholi for rape in the case. However, the legal opinion is divided over his culpability under Section 376C of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises sexual intercourse by a person in authority. Mr. Jarkiholi has not been given a “clean chit” yet. The SIT may submit a report of all the objective findings of the probe to the government, sources said.

The Opposition Congress has been mounting pressure on the SIT, accusing it of delaying the probe. However, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai has repeatedly claimed the SIT has been given full independence and there has been no interference in the probe. Any possible “clean chit” to Mr. Jarkiholi is expected to create a political storm.

“The alleged rape happened in February and it was two months later that the woman was subjected to a medical examination and a spot mahazar was conducted. There was no evidence recovered from either exercise,” a senior official said.

Ideally, the woman’s statement is sufficient evidence. However, in this case, the evidence points to a “honey trap”, the official said. Recently, Mr. Jarkiholi also reportedly changed his earlier stance and agreed that he had consensual sex with the woman and the video was genuine, but was used to extort money from him.

“The video in the public domain is only a small portion of the raw footage, which shows that the sexual act was consensual. It has some evidence indicating that it may have been a case of honey trap,” the official said. “Moreover, the woman had made several deliberate attempts to mask her identity while approaching Mr. Jarkiholi. She claimed to be working at a drone firm and approached him to seek permission to shoot dams in the State while she was working at a real estate firm and had no work shooting dams,” a source said.

However, Mr. Jarkiholi has been booked under Section 376C of the IPC. Legal opinion is divided over whether he is culpable under that particular section even if the sexual act was consensual.

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