Police man forced disabled rape victim to accept Rs. 10,000 in settlement

(February 22, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mrs. Yamange Hemalatha (50) of Akkara 33, Weligodella, Bombuwala is married and a mother of two children. Her husband is a shoe maker and self employed.

One of Hemalatha's children is a 23-year-old woman who is physically and mentally disabled. Chandani (not her real name) was born with her disability. She is crippled and wheel chair bound. Further she is mentally retarded and requires constant supervision as she is unable to tend to her bodily functions and needs and drools more or less constantly. She is able to speak with difficulty but has little concentration.

On 31 January 2011 Hemalatha's husband and her other child left for works and Hemalatha went to assist with the alms giving in a neighbouring house leaving Chandani at home. When she returned home Chandani was able to tell her that she had been raped by a neighbour. Having little or no physical strength she had no defence against her attacker. She was able to identify her attacker as the son-in-law of one of their neighbours, Mr. Preme. There was another reason as to why Chandani was able to identify the rapist as he had come to the house a few days earlier to use the services of her Hemalatha's husband for shoe making.

Hemalatha observed that the victim child was in severe pain condition suffering with pain. Then immediately she called her husband and with his help they took Chandani to the Dodangoda Police Station. When they reached the police station the time was around 2 to 2.30pm. The officers on duty recorded the complaint and immediate following officers went by a three wheeler and arrested the suspected rapist and brought him to the police station. Then the officers requested the victim and her parent to leave the station.

Then the father-in-law of the suspect rapist Mr. Preme arrived at their house at around 11.30 am on 2 February and conveyed the message that Hemalatha and her family members had to appear before the Officer-In-Charge (OIC), of the police station. Hemalatha was surprised as to how a family member of the suspect could informed them of a official police notice. Part of their suspicion arose from the fact that the notice was handed over at 11.30 am which was the same time that she had to appear before the OIC. Further, Hemalatha noticed that the official seal of the OIC of Dodangoda Police Station was also there in that small paper. Hemalatha went to the police station immediately.

At the police station she noticed that the suspect was inside the police cell. The OIC ordered him to be brought out and he shouted at the suspect in front of the victims.

It was then that the OIC told Hemalatha that as the virtual complainant was disabled mentally and physically she could not proceed with a legal case. He ordered Hemalatha to receive the money from the suspect and settle the matter. Mr. Preme gave Hemalatha Rs. 10 000/= in the presence of the OIC. Then Hemalatha understood that was a financial settlement that had been arranged by the OIC.

After the money had been handed over the OIC told Hemalatha that she should not reveal that the money was given to her, not even her husband. Then the OIC forced her to sign an entry in a register that he had already prepared. The OIC did not explain the contents of the entry.

The OIC pointed his finger at Hemalatha and roughly threatened her that she should not reveal to anyone that she was given money at the police station. As she was in fear of the OIC she followed his instructions, took the money and left.

When she returned home she informed her husband of what had happened at the police station. Chandani and her father were seriously upset with the illegal way in which the OIC had suppressed justice for an innocent victim. The father took the money from Hemalatha and went to the police station where he handed it back to some police officers. The police officers accepted the money but offered no receipt for it. The husband demanded that the police to proceed against the suspect, saying that he wanted justice for his child.

It is to be noted that at no time did the police officers direct Hemalatha or her husband to take the victim to a hospital. Further, the police officers have not taken any of legal steps stipulated in the Criminal Procedure Code against the suspect.

Hemalatha and her family members brought Chandani to the Nagoda General Hospital for treatment. Even this was done with great difficulty as their house is located far away from the main road and required the assistance of many people to carry her. The heavy rains that were battering the country at that time also added to the enormous difficulties. This was exacerbated by Hemalatha's own prolonged chronic illness.

Chandani was admitted ward number 10 and treated for many days. The doctors who examined her also confirmed formed that she had been raped.

Meanwhile Hemalatha leaned that the suspect rapist has been released.

Hemalatha states that the OIC of the Dodangoda Police Station did not proceed legally with her complaint. She further said that OIC of the station worked illegally by arranging and forcing her to settle a case of criminal rape which is an uncompoundable offence under the law. In Sri Lankan law police officers have the leeway to settle certain complaints with the agreement of the parties. This would include personal disputes and such however, criminal cases such as attempted murder, murder and rape do not come under this schedule.

Hemalatha further says that as she belongs to a poor and marginalised group of society the OIC wanted to enforce the law in a discriminatory manner. Further she states that she believes that the OIC suppressed the law as he was given bribes. Also she goes on to say that that the police officers are legally bound to issue a Medico Legal Examination Form (MLEF) to the complainant of rape or to the victim who were subjected to the 'crimes against the human body'. But the OIC and the police officers of the Dodangoda Police Station did not treat Chandani equally before the law and acted ultra vires in that regard.

She strongly states that according to the law the OIC of any police station is legally bound to investigate the complaint of crimes and report those to the Magistrate Court for determination of the Magistrate to proceed with law for the conviction of the criminal if found guilty at a High Court. Further she states that the OIC is the determining and guiding officers in law for the investigation of these kinds of complaints and it is his responsibility to contact the Judicial Medical Officers (JMO) for the medical evidence of the victim as well as the suspect. It is the responsibility of the OIC to collect the evidence produced relating to the crime and produce these productions with the necessary securities to the Magistrate's Court and then to the Government Analyst when necessary. Hemalatha states that the OIC and the other officers of Dodangoda Police Station intentionally suppressed and ignored the whole procedure of the criminal justice system to help the suspect and deny justice to her and her victim child.

Finally Hemalatha states that being a disable woman, her child should have been treated with special care and attention by the law enforcement officers.

Hemalatha made complaints to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kaluthara, The OIC of the Women and Child Care Bureau and the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRC) for the investigation of her complaint and to provide her with justice. However, to date, none of these officers or authorities have taken any steps to uphold justice.

Now Hemalatha and her family members are presently in fear of their lives as they complained to the higher authorities thereby ignoring the threat of the OIC not to reveal the crime. Hemalatha is therefore seeking protection for herself and all her family members as they may be considered witnesses of the crime.

The victim narrated how they were discriminate before the police and how the victim was raped in the video.

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