The episode of a CD surfacing that showed BJP leader Ramesh Jarkiholi being intimate with a woman, allegedly after promising her a government posting, is only the latest in a series of such scandals in Karnataka politics. However, history shows that investigations into these cases have rarely gone very far. They remain no more than blips in the careers of male politicians.
In over a decade now, at least six instances of Ministers and legislators being in compromising positions have been leaked to the media. H.Y. Meti of the Congress in 2016 and Haratalu Halappa of the BJP in 2010 lost their ministerial posts in the process.
However, in no case did the woman, the alleged victim, get justice nor the accused man punished. The men who found themselves in a spot over CDs, though suffered temporary setback in their political career, mostly bounced back.
A senior police official who has investigated two such cases in the past said the biggest impediment to probes was not just political pressures in favour of and against the accused, but failure to get the woman, the alleged victim, to testify. “Without a victim there is no case,” he pointed out. For instance, in the case of Mr. Meti, the alleged victim made several volte faces accusing the Minister of abuse to only retract it, prompting the CID to give the Minister a clean chit. In the instance of Mr. Jarkiholi, the woman in the video is yet to make a statement to the police.
K.S. Vimala, V-P, All India Democratic Women’s Association, Karnataka, said the patriarchal mindset of society often means the woman ends up being shamed, making it tough for women to fight for justice, especially when the alleged perpetrators are those in power. “The recent MeToo movement exposed just that. The need of the hour is a dedicated law to protect victims of sexual abuse,” she argued.
Senior advocate B.T. Venkatesh said given that the State has been informed of an alleged crime, it is duty-bound to not only investigate the crime, but also protect the alleged victim. However, he also cautioned that a video of a consensual sexual act between adults was no crime and there was a criminal case only if there was an “element of harm”, which can be established only through an investigation.
Another challenge police officials face in such cases was establishing the genuineness of the video. “In many cases, the videos presented would have been edited, compromising its evidentiary value. In such cases, blackmail cannot be ruled out,” a police officer said. “Often politicians and activists speak of the existence of incriminating CDs. But most of them never come to the public domain, indicating this element of bargain or blackmail,” he said.