BENGALURU: As the acquittal of all accused in the infamous 2009 Mangaluru pub attack caused dismay among social activists, the Karnataka government today said it would study the court order and decide the next course of action.
Karnataka Women's Commission chairperson Nagalakshmi Bai said the commission finds itself helpless when the court has acquitted all the accused, adding at the most it can write to the government to file an appeal.
Expressing dismay at the acquittal, women's rights activist Shakun Mohini of NGO Vimochana said, "This acquittal is part of a series of acquittals happening across India."
Pramod Muthalik, chief of the rightwing fringe outfit Sri Ram Sene and among the acquitted, said though "what was done was wrong" it was not a case of rape or murder.
Citing lack of evidence, a local court in Mangaluru had yesterday acquitted Muthalik and several others.
Muthalik was at the vortex of the controversy after the moral policing incident grabbed national attention.
Over 30 Sri Ram Sene activists had allegedly barged into the pub on January 24, 2009, and assaulted some women and men, claiming they were violating traditional Indian values.
The incident had generated national outrage after the video clip of the attack showing several men allegedly dragging women at the pub by their hair, slapping and roughing them up, accusing them of "loose morals", went viral.
Reacting to the court verdict, Bai told PTI: "There is little for us to do.All we can do is write to the government to appeal against the order in the higher court after examining the order and the evidences hand.
"Mohini said "I don't know how to react to this development."
Happy over the judicial outcome, Muthalik said, "It is a victory of our objective. Though the way it was done, it was wrong.it was not a big crime. It was not a case of rape or murder."
BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje said Mangaluru was a very sensitive area and many untoward incidents against women were taking place and they should be take care of themselves.
"We are not against anybody or we are not for anybody. Six years they (accused persons) were in jail.Someone must have done something. We are with women but women should take care of themselves," she told reporters here.
"Mangaluru is a very sensitive area and many untoward incidents are happening there on women. That's why we should be very careful and we should take care of ourselves," she added. As the acquittal triggered a debate, Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy said, "I have asked the director of the prosecution to bring all the files related to the case.We will study the order and accordingly, we will decide the next court of action."
He said the accused were acquitted because the witnesses and victims turned hostile and did not turn up for hearing.
Reddy said, "The victims did not appear before the court to give their statements. The witnesses were also not present.The video could have been an evidence in this case but it was not certified before submission to the court.These were the reasons behind the acquittal of the accused persons."
Months before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had inducted Muthalik, but within hours disowned him after the party's central leadership expressed surprise at the decision of its Karnataka unit.
The pub attack of 2009 is part of series of moral policing incidents that have been taking place in the communally sensitive Dakshina Kannada district.
Instances of moral policing by vigilante groups of fringe Hindu and Muslim outfits against mixing of boys and girls from both the communities come to the fore often in the coastal district.