The Karnataka High Court, presided over by Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit, expressed strong criticism for the inaction of around 50 to 60 bystanders during a horrifying incident in Belagavi. The incident involved the assault, public humiliation, and tethering of a woman to an electricity pole after her son reportedly eloped with a girl.

Labeling the bystanders’ lack of intervention as ‘collective cowardice,’ the bench highlighted the urgent need to enforce collective responsibility in such scenarios, in line with the principles of Article 15 of the Constitution. The court stressed the necessity for concrete steps to address such incidents effectively and to move away from self-centered motives within society.

The Advocate General apprised the court that during the assault, a large number of villagers, apart from the 13 assailants, remained as mute spectators. Only one individual, Mr. Jehangir, demonstrated courage by attempting to rescue the victim.

The bench strongly emphasized the importance of instilling values of aiding those in distress and standing up against wrongdoing, asserting that inaction poses a greater threat than the actions of offenders. It lamented the collective cowardice and irresponsibility exhibited by the villagers, urging society to cultivate a culture of helping those in need.

Furthermore, the court underscored the need to educate and empower the boy child to respect and protect women, shifting the focus from “Save the girl child” to “Educate the boy child.”

Expressing empathy for the victim’s condition, the court interacted with the medical officer and investigating police team. It noted the victim’s required medical treatment spanning six to eight months and directed the release of the full interim compensation of Rs 50,000 to her by the District Legal Services Authority.

The State government confirmed the release of Rs 5 lakh from the Chief Minister’s fund to the victim and assured the court of providing her with 2 acres 3 guntas of land without any encumbrances by December 31, 2023. The investigation has been transferred to the CID, and actions against the erring police officer and arrests of 11 accused have been initiated, while one remains absconding.

The bench acknowledged the state’s efforts, directed further investigation by the CID, and adjourned the hearing to the third week of January 2024, emphasizing the necessity for additional reports from the investigating agency.

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