A Mumbai court acquitted 18 medical students who were accused of ragging their juniors at the medical college attached to the KEM Hospital 11 years ago. Two of the ten juniors who had deposed earlier turned hostile during the trial in court, which proved crucial in the acquittal of 18 seniors. In 2010, ‘unnatural ragging’ had occurred on the first floor of the hostel building, according to the complainant. Police reported that juniors were asked to enact as if they had constipation, while some boys performed advertisements for women’s underwear. Several students were asked to pose in obscene ways as depicted in women’s magazines by placing paper balls under their shirts. The juniors were allegedly threatened with dire consequences if they did not obey the seniors’ orders.
When the medical college was notified about the incident, the deputy dean of the KEM hospital, who was in charge of administrative matters, registered a case of misconduct by seniors that fell within the scope of ragging.The 18 accused were charged on October 20, 2012. ‘The offence being of a serious nature, in which educated students were indulged in misconduct against the junior students for pervert pleasure, it is necessary to demonstrate both the involvement of the accused and their act to commit, abet and propagate the offence’.
‘It encompasses a wide range of acts, ranging from disorderly conduct to doing an act which could have the potential to cause physical and psychological harm. The scope of ragging is so broad that mere suspicion, fear or shame of students is also covered. This may include taunting, threatening, playing practical jokes or telling students to do things they will not be willing to do in an ordinary course’, the court said. During his testimony, the junior medical student was adamant about not discussing ragging.
Cross-examination yielded no evidence in support of prosecution after he retracted his statement. In its judgment, the court stated that even the junior student who had ‘called the police’ as his father was a policeman gave a statement in court that was ‘vague and did not attribute indulgence to anyone or any specific act of ragging’. While there were ten victims, the prosecution’s case regarding any role attributed to the accused did not hold up to examination, noticed Magistrate Pravin P Deshmane. The magistrate stated that cogent and conclusive evidence to prove the guilt and complicity of the accused.
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In addition, the court pointed out that the investigating officer had not found anything in the room on the first floor such as women’s undergarments, obscene photographs or paper balls. The court said if the material used in the ragging had been recovered, it could have been used to book the guilty. ‘This is also a serious hold up to the prosecution case, which raises doubt as to the truth of what happened’, said Magistrate Pravin P Deshmane.