The village council accused of ordering the rape of two Indian sisters because their brother ran off with a higher caste woman has denied it ever ordered the sickening punishment. The news that the women were to be assaulted because of their brother's actions led to an international outcry and hundreds of thousands of people have demanded their safety.
Now, members of the village council in the Baghpat region of northern India have told Reuters they passed no such order.
Family members of the two sisters also said they are unsure if the ruling was made - while local police deny any such directive was given.
When the accusations first emerged last month, they spread like wildfire. An online petition by Amnesty International seeking justice and protection for the low-caste sisters gathered over 260,000 signatures, mostly in Britain.
But family members said it may have just been gossip.
"It is all hearsay, we don't know if this actually happened," said Dharam Pal Singh, 55, the women's father and a retired soldier.
"We heard it from other villagers."He identified one of the villagers, a man who also said he had heard it from others.
The incendiary allegations were contained in a petition to the Supreme Court filed last month by a lawyer for the Singh family seeking protection for the sisters.
It said one of Singh's sons fell in love with a married woman of a higher caste, leading to a row between the two families.
In its most sensational claim, the court filing said Meenakshi Kumari, 23, and her 15-year-old sister fled their home after being told they would be stripped naked and paraded with their faces blackened before being raped to atone for their brother's transgression.
Kumari, the elder sister, admitted she didn't know if the council had issued a ruling but said she took the threat seriously because women are often punished in India for things they have not done.
"It is a very tough life for women," Kumari said in an interview at her lawyer's office in the relative security of the capital.
"These things can happen."She said she had heard of the threat to rape her from her father.
Reuters interviewed more than 20 people involved in the incident in the village of Sankrod, in Baghpat district, an hour's drive away from the capital New Delhi.
Sharad Sachan, a police superintendent, concluded after interviewing council leaders and other villagers that no such order had been issued. "The Supreme Court asked us to investigate and we plan to tell them our findings later this month," Sachan said.
The Supreme Court is not due to rule on the case until later this month.Amnesty said it did not investigate the case or visit the village, and instead relied on the court submission.