India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has expelled one of its lawmakers after a car crash in which a woman who had accused him of rape was injured, reports BBC. The BJP acted amid outrage over the time taken to expel Kuldeep Sengar, who is in jail awaiting trial and denies the rape accusation. In the crash in Uttar Pradesh state on Sunday, two of the women's aunts died and her lawyer was also injured.
Police are investigating any connection between Sengar and the car crash. The alleged victim's mother said Sengar's expulsion was "good news at last". She told the BBC's Divya Arya her family had been "living in fear" since her daughter, now 19, accused Sengar of raping her in 2017. The woman, who cannot legally be named, was travelling with her lawyer and relatives when their car was hit by a lorry on a state highway in Rae Bareli district.
She alleges that after she approached Sengar for a job in June 2017, she was kidnapped and raped for more than a week by him and others. Sengar was charged under India's stringent child protection laws, since the woman was a minor at the time of the alleged abduction and rape. Her mother has alleged that the crash was not an accident.
State police have opened a murder investigation against Sengar on the basis of a complaint filed by the family. His lawyer, Awadhesh Singh, told Reuters news agency the car crash was "just an accident". The BJP had come in for sharp criticism since the accident over the fact that Sengar had remained in the party despite the serious allegations against him. In response, the party said it had suspended him "long ago" but did not give details of when.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court took up the case suo moto (without a formal complaint from any party) on Thursday after reports that the woman and her family had written to the chief justice for help weeks earlier, citing intimidation by Mr Sengar's supporters. The court demanded a status report into the proceedings against Sengar.
It also asked that the case against Sengar be moved from Uttar Pradesh to the capital Delhi and told doctors to assess if the woman's injuries allowed her to be airlifted to a government speciality hospital in Delhi. The case has caused massive outrage across India with many pointing to it as an example of the "lawlessness" of Uttar Pradesh and also as an example of how hard it is to take on people in positions of power in the country. Three officers charged with protecting the alleged victim have been suspended.