Kuldeep Sengar: India's BJP party expels rape suspect

Police next to the crashed car in Uttar Pradesh (28 July 2019) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police next to the crashed car in Uttar Pradesh

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has expelled one of its lawmakers after a car crash in which a woman who had accused him of rape was injured.

The BJP acted amid outrage over the time taken to expel Kuldeep Sengar, who is in jail awaiting trial and denies the rape accusation.

In the crash in Uttar Pradesh state on Sunday, two of the woman's aunts died and her lawyer was also injured.

Police are investigating any connection between Mr Sengar and the car crash.

The mother of the alleged victim said Mr Sengar's expulsion was "good news at last".

She told the BBC her family had been "living in fear" since her daughter, now 19, accused Mr Sengar of raping her in 2017.

"My husband died. Kuldeep will eventually meet his family members, his children, wife and everyone else. But for us, our family members are gone forever, they won't come back from the dead… we will never be able to see them," she said.

Her daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was travelling with her lawyer and relatives when their car was hit by a lorry on a state highway in Rae Bareli district.

She had alleged that after she approached Mr Sengar for a job in June 2017, she was kidnapped and raped for more than a week by him and others.

Mr Sengar was charged under India's stringent child protection laws, since the woman was a minor at the time.

Her mother has alleged that the crash was not an accident.

State police have opened a murder investigation against Mr Sengar on the basis of a complaint filed by the family. His lawyer, Awadhesh Singh, told Reuters news agency the car crash was "just an accident".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Sengar has been charged with rape and criminal conspiracy

The BJP came in for sharp criticism over the fact that Mr Sengar had remained in the party despite the serious allegations against him. In response, the party said it had suspended him "long ago" but did not give details of when.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court took up the case suo moto (without a formal complaint from any party) on Thursday. The move followed reports that the woman and her family had written to the chief justice for help weeks earlier, citing intimidation by Mr Sengar's supporters.

The court demanded a status report into the proceedings against Mr Sengar and awarded compensation of 2.5mn rupees ($36,180; £29,877) to the woman's family.

It also asked that the case against Mr Sengar be moved from Uttar Pradesh to the capital Delhi and stipulated that it must be heard within 45 days. The case had not even been listed for trial.

The incident has caused massive outrage across India, with many calling it an example of the "lawlessness" of Uttar Pradesh and how hard it is to take on people in positions of power across the country.

Three officers charged with protecting the alleged victim have also been suspended.

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