Jasleen Kaur is now based in Canada. She reached out to ThePrint after our story on the struggles being faced by the accused, who claims innocence.
New Delhi: The woman at the centre of a three-year-old Delhi ‘molestation’ case centred on a viral social media post has told ThePrint she “doesn’t want to stretch this”.
“I want to live in peace,” Jasleen Kaur (23) said from Canada, where she is working for an HR company.
In August 2015, when Jasleen was a student at Delhi’s St Stephen’s college, she made a viral Facebook post accusing a man, Sarvjeet Singh, of verbally harassing her at a traffic signal. An FIR was filed and the case has been in a Delhi court since.
Sarvjeet has denied the allegations, and claimed from the outset that his interaction with Jasleen was restricted to a heated exchange on traffic rules.
Jasleen reached out to this reporter after ThePrint published a story on the struggles Sarvjeet has been facing because her failure to respond to repeated summons has brought the trial to a standstill.
But Jasleen insisted that she never backed away from the case, and vowed to fight on.
“I started this fight for a reason and I am not going to shy away from it. I will come and give my statement in the court,” she said.
Jasleen also denied receiving any summons to appear in court in the last three years and accused Sarvjeet of lying.
“Since it is a state case, I am just one of the witnesses and have not been summoned for the 13 hearings, as claimed by Sarvjeet and his lawyer. They are lying,” she said.
ThePrint, however, has a copy of the order, dated 16 May, which shows that Jasleen was summoned.
Jasleen also refuted Sarvjeet’s claims that a bailable warrant was issued against her in the last court hearing on 29 August.
“There is no bailable warrant issued against me. That is a complete lie. There is a warrant against another witness, but not me.”
This claim was refuted by Sarvjeet’s lawyer, Kuldeep Singh.
“In the last hearing, the judge issued a bailable warrant against Jasleen as she failed to appear in court despite repeated summons,” he said. “The next hearing is on 1 December.”
Jasleen’s Facebook post, dated 23 August, 2015, was initially greeted with sympathy, with an image of Sarvjeet clicked by her soon going viral. Television news channel Times Now famously labeled him “Delhi pervert”, playing his image on a loop.
However, public opinion split after Sarvjeet posted a comment in his defence and offered his version of the incident. Sarvjeet claimed that it was Jasleen who misbehaved with him and then threatened to get him arrested.
Amid this confusion, it is widely expected that the question will finally be settled by the court.
‘Can’t be forced to come to India’
Jasleen’s lawyer Ravinder Ruhil accepted that summons had been issued, but said the court could still not “force” Jasleen to give a statement since she is just a witness in the case.
“The court cannot pressure her to come. It is true that there have been summons but her father has been appearing in court and has told the magistrate that she is in Canada,” he said.
“If Sarvjeet is suffering, so are we. The woman’s father takes leave and goes to court for each hearing,” he added.
Ruhil also said there are only nine prosecution witnesses, Jasleen being the only one present at the scene. The other eight are from police personnel and judicial officers involved in the case.
In 2015, after Jasleen’s post went viral, a purported eyewitness, Vishwajeet Singh, vouched for Sarvjeet’s innocence. Vishwajeet claimed it was Jasleen who had verbally abused Sarvjeet and misbehaved with him. However, Vishwajeet does not feature in the list of nine witnesses, as police have not been able to trace him.
“This Vishwajeet was just a plant by Sarvjeet. If he is a witness who changed public perception on social media, after which Jasleen started to get abused, why does he not appear in court now? Where is he,” Ruhil asked.
‘Left India because of abuse on social media’
Speaking to ThePrint, Jasleen’s uncle Prabhjit Singh reiterated her claim that she was just a witness in the case.
“The case is State vs Saravjeet Singh. Jasleen is just one of the witnesses,” he said. “She, however, must come forward to give her statement and she will.”
Although the state does represent the prosecution side in the case, they are finding it hard to begin proceedings in Jasleen’s absence as the entire case rests on her statement.
Prabhjit said Jasleen had left the country after facing a barrage of abuse on social media. “She got admission in JNU but, because of the abuse, decided to move abroad instead,” he added.
He said her father had been attending the hearings on her behalf, saying she will appear in court soon too.
“Earlier, she was a student and did not get leave. The same was conveyed to the court by her father,” he said. “She is now working with a company in Canada and will have time to visit India and give her statement.”
When asked if Jasleen had sought permission to give her statement through video conferencing, Singh said they were not “given any such direction by the court”.
“If the court asks, we will be happy to do it,” he said.
Rules issued in this regard by the Delhi High Court allow courts to let witnesses or any of the parties involved to give evidence or make submissions via video link.