What do you do when the men accused of sexually assaulting your daughter are released on bail thanks to birth certificates that affirm they were conveniently underage when the incident took place? That was the question her father faced last September.
When the five suspects, including a Junior Davis Cup player, accused of sexually assaulting a trainee at a well-known tennis academy in Chandigarh were charged in court last year, her father thought they would finally see justice.
It was never going to be easy. Birth certificates were produced. Bail was given. The case seemed settled. Except, the father of the girl was not convinced. He was triggered. He decided that he wouldn’t let it go so easy either.
“During the trial, the Chandigarh Police had submitted the birth certificates of the accused, provided by [the tennis academy], which proved them as minor. I wasn’t convinced. I went to the native villages of the three accused, including the Junior Davis Cup player to find out their real birth certificates,” said father.
NDTV is not naming the tennis academy or the father to protect the identity of the survivor.
Over the next few months, he travelled to Rohtak, Palwal and Hisar in Haryana, reaching out to government schools where the accused had studied at the elementary level and dug up their original date of births.
Pay dirt. Records uncovered by the father contradicted the age of three of the accused as attested during the earlier stage of the trial by the police. They were not minors.
He submitted the documents in the court, asking for its verification and appealed that the bail be cancelled. The court instructed the police to verify the papers submitted by the father.
In November, the Chandigarh Police’s verification found the documents to be genuine and they submitted their report in the court.
Asked about the conflict with the birth certificates attested earlier in court by investigators and the documents provided by the father, the Chandigarh Police had little for an explanation.
“We just followed the court orders and verified the documents and submitted our report. The issue is subjudice and it is up to the courts to decide whether the accused have fudged their documents,” Chandigarh Police told NDTV.
This was not enough for the woman’s father. He also filed a complaint with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
His claim against one of the accused was found true and this year, the Department of Health cancelled his birth registration certificate and had his father and two of his colleagues charged for forgery by Hisar Police.
The probe against the two other suspects is still in the process in the grievance redressal department. “Now, since one accused has faced the heat, I am hopeful that the rest of the accused will also meet the same fate,” the woman’s father said.
Since court hearings were affected because of the coronavirus pandemic, the man also wrote to the All India Tennis Association but claims to have received no response.
“AITA has not given any response to my communication,” said the father, who himself is an accused in a case filed by one of the suspects, alleging that he beat him up.
The father has also accused the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association (CLTA) of shielding the sexual assault suspects by providing them legal support and paying for their bail bonds.
The CLTA, which governs the academy where the survivor and her alleged assaulters trained, is headed by top serving and former bureaucrats of Punjab and Haryana. The association refused to comment on the story saying that the issue is in court.