It has been 32 years since an 18-year-old Rajput woman burnt herself to death on her husband’s funeral pyre in a Rajasthan village on September 4, 1987. Thirty-two people charged with abetment to suicide in the case were acquitted in 1996 but nine people charged with glorification of the act are still facing trial in a Jaipur special court.
The trial is in the final stage now, said public prosecutor Narpat Singh.
A year after Roop Kanwar committed Sati, a procession was taken out from Deorala to Ajitgarh on September 22, 1988, on a truck which had a poster, Jai Shri Roop Kanwar Ki Jai’. Police booked all 45 people on board the truck for glorification of the banned practice.
Twenty-five of them were acquitted on November 9, 2004; six are no more, five have been declared absconders, and nine are facing trial under the Rajasthan Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987.
Earlier, six people were declared absconders; one of them, Laxman Singh, surrendered in the special court on Wednesday. He was released on bail, the public prosecutor said.
The next hearing in the case has been fixed for September 18.
Roop Kanwar had been married for eight months to Maal Singh Shekhawat, who died on September 3 at the age of 24. After her death, the state government led by Harideo Joshi brought an ordinance on October 1, 1987, to prevent Sati and its glorification.
The ordinance, which later became the Rajasthan Sati (Prevention) Act, after it got President’s assent on November 26, 1987, defined glorification as the observance of any ceremony or the taking out of a procession in connection with Sati or the creation of a trust or the collection of funds or the construction of a temple or the performance of any ceremony thereat with a view to perpetuating the honour of, or to preserve the memory of, a widow committing Sati.
The law also defined Sati as the burying or buying alive of any widow along with the body of her deceased husband or with any article, object or thing associated with the husband, irrespective of whether such burning or burying is voluntary on the part of the widow or otherwise.
Glorification is punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to seven years and with fine which shall not be less than five thousand rupees but which may extend to thirty thousand rupees.
So far, 23 cases have been registered in Rajasthan under the Act – 13 in 1987, seven in 1988, two in 1989 and one each in 1993 and 2000 – against 151 accused; 129 accused have been acquitted. Out of the remaining 22, 8 are facing trial and others have either died or are absconding.
On August 31 this year, public prosecutor Narpat Singh moved an application in the court for re-examination of witnesses. Surendra Singh Naruka, the lawyer defending the eight accused facing trial, said the application did not mention any reason for re-examination. “We have requested the court to ignore it,” he said.
The public prosecutor said he had some new evidences on which he wanted to re-examine the witnesses.