‘Sextortion racket’ by 20-yr-old Gurugram woman lands several men behind bars; many others may have paid lakhs
The woman has been on a spree of lodging FIRs against multiple men. In a rare such instance, even Haryana State Women’s Commission asked Gurugram police chief and DGP, Haryana to probe the issue
In a shocking such instance of its kind, it has come to light that as many as seven FIRs were registered by Haryana Police under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to rape and outraging a woman’s modesty etc against different men at the instance of a 20-year-old Gurugram-based woman over the last few months.
Besides this, as per sources, she has demanded and received lakhs of rupees from an as-yet-undertermined number of men who were ‘honey-trapped’ by her and put in fear of such police cases.
The FIRs in question, registered at various police stations in Gurugram Police Commissionerate, include FIR no. 312/2020 lodged at Police Station (PS) Rajendra Park under IPC Sections 376 (Rape) and 506 (Criminal Intimidation); no. 662/2020 at PS Gurgaon Sadar under Sections 376 (2)(n), 506 and 323 (Voluntarily causing hurt); no. 418/2021 at PS Sector 10 under Sections 376 and 439; no. 156/2021 at PS New Colony under Section 376; no. 74/2021 at PS Sector 15 under Sections 376, 354A, 323 and 341 (Wrongful restraint); no. 17/2021 at PS Cyber under Section 509 (Insulting woman’s modesty) and Sections 66E and 67 of IT Act; and no. 269/2021 at PS DLF Phase 3 under Sections 376, 354 (Outraging modesty), 323 and 34 (Common intention).
The last FIR was lodged as recently as October 24, despite the fact that Punjab & Haryana High Court had taken cognisance of the ‘fake rape FIRs’ while granting bail to a man who was incarcerated for several months after being targeted by her. In its order, the court cited a status report it had sought from Commissioner of Police, Gurugram, which stated that out of 7 FIRs lodged by her, 3 were cancelled due to false allegations.
Gurugram Police had, consequently, initiated action against the woman under Section 182 of IPC, which penalises anyone furnishing false information to a public servant, in this case the police, and court proceedings are underway against her.
However, as per a Gurugram-based lawyer who defended an accused in one such ‘rape’ case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, she does not bother to attend the court during these hearings. “She only turns up during bail hearings of the accused to object to the same,” he said.
He pointed out that so many rape cases being filed by the same woman in different police stations of the same city itself indicated that she was indulging in blackmail. “The prosecutrix being the same in multiple cases reeks of a sextortion racket being run by her. Even the allegations are similar in all FIRs, of rape on pretext of marriage. Moreover, cancellation of some FIRs and police action against her for giving false information is indicative of the same thing. But she seems to be undeterred,” he said.
He added that the woman had even misbehaved with a judge during a hearing and had got two police personnel suspended.
In a rare such instance, even the state women’s commission, Haryana State Women’s Commission (HSWC), has taken cognisance of the issue and sought a police probe into it.
This followed a complaint sent to it by social activist and documentary filmmaker Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj who wrote that the woman in question – whose name is being withheld by National Herald at this point of time – was engaged in a blackmail and extortion racket, taking money from men by ‘settling’ cases outside police stations while lodging FIRs against multiple men.
The Commission on October 22, 2021 wrote to Commissioner of Police, Gurugram to furnish details of the FIRs and report of enquiry conducted by the police. On October 26, 2021, the officiating chairperson of the Commission, Preeti Bhardwaj Dalal, wrote to the Director General of Police, Haryana to form a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the matter.
“We presume this case has the linings of criminal activities which may be similar to sexpinage, extortion, femme fatale-honey trapping. This is a serious matter and requires urgent action and attention from your department,” she wrote.
Emails were sent to official addresses of KK Rao, Commissioner of Police, Gurugram and PK Agrawal, DGP Haryana to seek their comments, but no response was received from them.
Speaking to National Herald, Bhardwaj said that she came to know of the matter when a young man sought help from her. “The woman forced this man to marry her by threatening him that she’ll file a fake rape complaint against him. When I delved into the matter, the sordid details tumbled out. It became clear that she was running a well-organised racket of targeting men who were members of a gym or through dating apps etc. She is totally fearless and is conversant with nuances of criminal laws,” she said.
“She typically alleges that the man raped her on the pretext of marriage. I personally know of a man who paid her Rs 3.5 lakhs out of fear. How many others are there is unknown as of now. Only a thorough probe by the police can unravel all the details. It seems to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg,” she added.
Reached for her comments regarding the status of formation of a SIT, Dalal said, “It has not been formed yet but we are following up on the matter. I have met Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij and he has assured me that the needful will be done.”
“Such misuse of laws by a woman is a serious issue. They are meant to help and protect women. Levelling of false rape allegations destroys the standing of the accused in society,” she added.
Commenting on the issue, Delhi-based criminal lawyer Nishant Kumar Srivastava, who set up law firm Actus Legal Associates, said, “Over a period of time, the liberal interpretation of "consent" and "refusal/ no" by a female victim of a sexual offence and the specific bar/ irrelevance of asking questions to the victim lady of a sexual offence/ prosecutrix related to her past sexual experience or character in cross examination, which is obviously well intended and is considered as an act of empowering such hapless women victims of sexual offences, has unfortunately made it easy for some unscrupulous people to misuse the law to the hilt.”
“In fact, one can hear many stories in the corridors of court complexes around the country about well-organised and well-greased syndicate of such people including women, men and police officials who trap innocent males with a woman getting friendly and intimate with them. They later threaten to file false FIRs against them and extort money from the hapless male who faces loss of reputation and ruined family life – divorce by wife and hatred by children and relatives and friends – and above all his name being made public in the media overnight. Many of them end up ‘settling’ the matter in the police station itself after exchange of money,” he said.
“We must not forget that if we say or believe that only 10-20 per cent of sexual offence cases are reported by a victim of such an offence, the converse may also be true i.e. to say such unscrupulous people must have settled 80-90 per cent false accusations in the police station itself and only 5-7 FIRs, where the financial deal couldn't materialise, got registered!” he added.
Asked whether the Gurugram Police should have done a background check of the woman’s complaints before registering FIRs which would have revealed her modus operandi, Srivastava said, “In order to end the discretion of the police, which was seen in many cases siding with a powerful perpetrator and therefore not registering an FIR even when a victim had made a clear complaint to the police – specifically in cases where the information revealed eve-teasing, molestation, trafficking, disrobing a women or incidence of rape etc. – Section 166A was inserted in the IPC in 2013.”
“As per this law, refusal to register an FIR when a complaint alleges rape, trafficking etc by a police official renders him liable to be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a minimum term of six months and which may extend up to two years and he is also liable to fine. This step was in the right direction, but it has some unwanted side effects too. It requires the police to register an FIR the moment they receive a complaint by a victim or anyone on her behalf disclosing commission of rape,” he said.
“There is a genuine fear amongst policemen that if they don't register an FIR, even if they have reasons to believe that such a complaint is false and fabricated and meant to extort money, the issue might reach media houses and women right activists, leading to a hue and cry which leads to them getting suspended right away. No official would like to risk his job, source of income and sustenance for his/her own family,” he added.
Asked about the legal consequences for such a woman filing false FIRs, Srivastava said, “The law is clear as to the legal consequences of setting the criminal action in motion maliciously and on false grounds. Section 211 (False charge of offence made with intent to injure) of the IPC deals with it and provides for a punishment of imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and also fine.”
“Interestingly, this is a non-cognizable offence, the category of offence as per Cr.P.C. in which the police can neither register an FIR nor can investigate or effect arrest without the express permission or direction from a court of law. This means the police is helpless even if it is aware of such a modus operandi,” he said.
“Again, life in this section is infused only when the accused is clearly acquitted on merits at the end of the trail. Unfortunately the hapless male accused ends up facing the entire trial, unless or until the alleged victim/ complainant/ prosecutrix herself admits her wrongdoing and makes a statement before the court that her original complaint was false,” he said.
“So a person who is a victim of such malicious prosecution can exercise his option only after the trial ends in his acquittal and approaches court for express permission or direction to the police to register a case under Section 211 IPC. And now again a very long process begins, first to get an FIR registered against the false informant/ complainant/ prosecutrix and then to wait for the outcome of this trial to see such an unscrupulous lady getting punished for ruining his biggest attest, his fame and respect in the society. Obviously, she may well get acquitted at the end of it,” he added.
This is not the first time that such ‘sextortion rackets’ have come to light. Just last month, Ghaziabad police arrested five members of a gang that allegedly extorted a whopping Rs 22 crore by targeting around 200 businessmen and senior executives after blackmailing them with images and videos of sex chats.
Spearheading the gang was a couple who had hired three women for a monthly 'salary' of Rs 25,000 and a share of the money they made.
As per media reports, the gang would open accounts on various social media platforms and send friend requests to men. After a few days of casual chats, they would share their WhatsApp numbers with the targets and ask them to make video calls. When they did, the accused would persuade them to strip. Screenshots and videos of the sex chats would be made and later used to blackmail the victims. Most of the victims coughed up money and did not approach the police, fearing social stigma.
In another case, the Cyber Cell of Delhi Police last month arrested a 24-year-old man from Rajasthan who ran a ‘sextortion’ racket for a period of over one and a half years, extorting over Rs 30 lakh from over 300 male and female victims across the country.
The police said the accused, who studied just till class 10, targeted the victims through Facebook and WhatsApp, running the racket with assistance from three relatives and called it their “family business”. Their modus operandi was to blackmail people using their morphed photos in lewd images and videos.
Published: 11 Nov 2021, 8:19 PM