New Delhi: Celebrities or victims? The debate over whether celebrities are soft targets for those looking for two-minutes in the spotlight has arisen with the domestic help who accused actor Shiney Ahuja of rape retracting her complaint and violinist L. Subramanian facing a similar charge.
More than a year after the sensational rape charge against Shiney, the upcoming star of films like ‘Gangster’, the 20-year-old complainant told a Mumbai court last week that the rape never took place. She also told the judge that she made the serious charge allegedly because of pressure from a woman who introduced her to the actor, an official source said.
The report of the sexual harassment complaint against eminent musician L Subramaniam by his 27-year-old maid coincidentally broke at the same time. The sexual harassment complaint Sep 5 came three days after he filed a police case against her for theft.
While some believe that Shiney and Subramaniam could be victims of famed celebrity trap, others believe that the serious allegations should not be diluted just because stars are involved.
"The more popular the celebrity, the more the chances of him grabbing attention and sometimes that makes him more vulnerable," said leading psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh.
"Hence a lot of people cash on this aspect to get quickly into the limelight for that two moment of fame. It can do wonders for them and they know they have hit the nail by doing so," Chugh told reporters.
Kolkata-based advocate Abhratosh Majumdar agreed. "Because they are in public space and their lives are under the media`s glare, celebrities are more vulnerable to accusations such as rape and other sexual misconduct than ordinary people.
"Except for cases where the celebrity is really guilty, the accuser may have the motive either to be in the spotlight or it can be a case of some sort of orchestrated vengeance in which the accuser is just a player," he added.
But there is another side to the story,
Gautam Kaul, former police officer and film historian, feels that celebrities should lead open lives to avoid such situations.
"A celebrity - be it he or she - is always exposed to such kind of danger. So they should lead a transparent life.
"However, in each case, the circumstances may be different. In Shiney Ahuja`s case, there seemed to be a grain of truth in the accusations. But in Subramaniam`s case, unless anything is proved, he has to be treated as innocent. A theft had been reported first, then came the accusations."
Pune-based mediaperson and former lawyer Biswadip Mitra questions the hype when a celebrity is involved.
"Why is it that the so-called celebrity tag and not the crime becomes the focal point? Article 14 of the Indian constitution makes it clear that all citizens are equal before the law, and the law protects citizens equally," Mitra told reporters.
"The point is, a crime is a crime. Whether it is allegedly committed by a well-known figure or not must not play any role in deciding the veracity of the accusation. Similarly, the status of the accused must not be a drawback to put up a defence," he added.
Mitra also spoke of the media trap that inevitably accompanies such a case.
"When Shiney Ahuja was accused of rape, certain news channels shelved all other news and kept on replaying the same visuals about him, as if nothing else had happened in the country. And when the channels sufficiently drove in the message that Ahuja wasn`t clean, the same channels started questioning whether Ahuja was a victim of his celeb status."