US prosecutors are about to drop charges against former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn after the accuser's story began falling apart. Seeing no way to a successful trial, New York's District Attorney is cutting his losses.
While it is legitimate to ask if DSK should have been arrested in such haste in the first place, at least he was given bail fairly soon by a judge; and freed about six weeks after the incident. The situation's very different in India.
The same day as the DSK prosecution fell apart, Bombay's High Court rejected the state's plea to appeal a lower court judgement in the TISS rape case. Here's the gist of that case: an American student doing a course at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) was persuaded to get drunk in a pub and then join six young men in a flat in Andheri. According to her, she felt woozy after entering the flat, fell asleep and woke to find her clothes undone and two of the guys sleeping next to her. Before dropping her to her hostel, the two bought a morning-after pill and asked her to consume it. She concluded her drink had been spiked, and the six had gang raped her while she slept. This even though:
1) She didn't actually recall any intercourse.
2) Four of the boys hadn't so much as touched her before she fell into that drugged sleep.
3) One of them left the house after letting his five friends in.
Forensic evidence showed no sign of any sexual intercourse having taken place. There was no trace of any date-rape drug in the accuser's urine sample, just some cannabis. It all came down to what the girl inferred had happened while she was supposedly asleep.
On the basis of that inference, six boys were charged under India's super-strict rape law and put away for months without bail in a jail where living conditions are sub-human.
The incident occurred in April 2009. The accused were acquitted in October 2010, which is very quick by Indian standards. What is unusual about last week's High Court judgement is that the judges didn't even admit the state's appeal against the order. The evidence had to have been dreadfully weak for a High Court to decline to hear an appeal.
Here's the clincher from the lower court's verdict: The woman said she was drugged and asleep from about 2 am to 10 am. Yet, her phone records showed she had made twelve calls to two friends in that period, and exchanged messages with them all the while. The prosecution apparently had no response to this glaring inconsistency.
"The victim also deposed that she was unconscious between 2 am and 10 am of April 12, 2009, but the prosecution has offered no concrete explanation for the 12 calls that were made from her mobile phone to that of her two friends - Ahmed Mitha and Rishabh Choksi - during those hours.
Her phone records show that the calls lasted for around two minutes and also several messages were exchanged. The defence harped on this point to establish that she was not unconscious during this period - when she was allegedly raped - and raised doubts over her testimony's veracity."
So here's the deal. Phone records are easy to get; the police will have had them at most within a week of the girl's complaint. If these records demolished the complainant's basic story, why did the police continue with the prosecution? It's as if the Indian police no longer have the right to conclude that any accused are innocent. On the other hand, they appear to suffer no adverse consequences if cases are dismissed in court. The New York DA's career would have gone down the drain if he launched a high-profile trial with a zero-credibility witness. Indian prosecutors obviously face no threat to their careers in proceeding with unwinnable trials.
Shouldn't it be obligatory for police to reveal whether the girl spoke with friends repeatedly on that night or not? This is a question of fact, not opinion, and the police have access to the answer. We appear to have built a system where cops leak whatever information and speculation suits their case, but have no obligation to make the facts of a case public when the accused are innocent.