UP: MP cleared of rape charges, year after victim's suicide
A court in Varanasi on Saturday acquitted Uttar Pradesh legislator Atul Rai of a rape charge that he had been facing since 2019. He won't be released from prison, however, due to other pending lawsuits against him. In August 2021, the victim in the rape case killed herself by setting herself on fire in front of the Supreme Court, citing a delay in justice.
- On a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket, Atul Rai was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 2019 general election from Ghosi in the state's east.
- The BSP politician surrendered in June 2019, one month after the woman filed a case against him.
- Rajesh Yadav, the dead woman's lawyer, has reportedly stated that he will appeal against the verdict in the High Court.
According to The Indian Express, the UP government's lawyer, Jyoti Shankar Upadhyay, told the media on Saturday that Rai was exonerated after a Varanasi court concluded that some of the nine witnesses' statements provided by the prosecution didn't back up the case proposed against the MP. The victim, a resident of the Ballia district, was a college student in Varanasi, preparing for civil services.
In 2019, a 24-year-old woman accused Atul Rai of rape. In her police report, the woman claimed that Atul Rai had sexually assaulted her at his Varanasi home in 2018. She passed away along with her friend in a Delhi hospital one week after the victim and her male friend set themselves on fire in front of the Supreme Court in August 2021.
As per reports, the woman had repeatedly claimed that Rai's associates mentally and physically harassed her and her family. Before setting herself ablaze in Delhi on August 16, 2021, the woman accused the UP Police in a Facebook live recording of aiding Rai. Before committing suicide, the two friends reportedly stated on social media that they expected no justice from the system.
Notably, based on a complaint filed by Rai's brother, Pawan Kumar, in 2020, the police charged a non-bailable warrant against the woman. While filing the rape complaint, he accused the woman of falsifying documents to conceal her date of birth. Further, the Supreme Court permitted Atul Rai to take his oath as a lawmaker while on parole the same year.