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Sunday Special » People

Posted at: Sep 10, 2017, 12:47 AM; last updated: Sep 10, 2017, 12:47 AM (IST)

Kotkhai: CBI must not return with empty hands

Bhanu Lohumi in Shimla

Bhanu Lohumi in Shimla

THE Kotkhai rape-murder case has been made to appear like a sequel of a horror movie whose denouement is left open-ended, subject to a hotchpotch investigation and subsequent judicial delays. The body of a teenage girl, reported missing on July 4, was found two days later in a forest. The postmortem confirmed gangrape and murder, triggering violent protests in Kotkhai and adjoining Theog and Shimla. There are other cases still pending in courts.

“It’s a nightmare for us… her memories haunt us… it is a permanent wound. We can only hope that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) would solve the case and the guilty would be punished,” says the elder sister of the victim. 

“We were suspicious of the role of the Special Investigation Team formed by the state police right from the beginning. The investigation was nearly derailed. The arrest of some police officers by CBI has proved us right. We do hope the narco-analysis of the five remaining accused brings out the truth. We want fresh, CBI-supervised DNA analysis of all the accused and suspects,” said the victim’s uncle.

The investigation has been slow, partly because of the initial mess-up. First, some photos of the suspects were uploaded on the Facebook page of the Chief Minister, but were removed within minutes. Then six accused, including five labourers, were arrested by the police who claimed to have made a breakthrough. But the uploaded photos and those arrested were different persons. An accused died in the police lockup, re-triggering massive protests following which the CBI took over the case. 

Over the last two decades at least three cases have gone to the CBI without any result. These are: 

The murder of leading Shimla hotelier Harsh Baljees on November 14, 1995: The case, handed to the CBI by the High Court, remained unsolved and was finally closed. Baljees was shot while on his way back home near Army Training Command (ARTRAC) in the heart of the city. The state police had arrested a leading builder of Delhi, but he was let off as the police failed to gather credible evidence.

IIAS antique clock theft: The antique bell kept at the main entrance of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) was stolen on the night of April 21-22, 2010. The case was given to the CBI after the state police closed it. The CBI investigation began in 2015 following orders of the High Court. The case continues without any breakthrough. The bell was gifted by the king of Nepal to the viceroy of India in 1903.

Youth shot by police: The death of a youth in police firing near Taradevi in January 2013 led to widespread protests after the police claimed that the victim along with his accomplice was trying to steal a vehicle. This case under CBI probe since May 2015 remains unsolved.

These have not only eroded the people’s faith in the CBI but have also led to questions about police’s inability to handle sensitive cases. “The police are not adequately trained to deal with political pressure and crimes against women. They are unable to grasp the seriousness of issues at the grassroots level. The latest rape-murder case is fast taking a political colour because state elections are round the corner,” says social worker and director of Society for Social Uplift Through Rural Action (SUTRA) Subhash Mendhapurkar. 

Retired High Court judge Justice DD Sood thinks that laxity in police investigation, applications for police remand, judicial custody and bail could be the reason for the delay in some cases. “Courts do not interfere in the normal course of investigation.”

When the role of law enforcement agencies is under suspicion, the result can be very frustrating for the people, and can even spark vigilante reprisals. “The 

rape-murder has led to anxiety among the people. The general impression is that someone who can influential the police and the political class is behind it. This is a serious situation,” says eminent sociologist Prof SK Sharma.

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