The government railway police’s (GRP) hunt for the culprit who threw acid on 25-year-old Preeti Rathi seems to be sketchy, with police teams randomly picking up persons who were associated with Rathi.
The GRP, which has little evidence against the only arrested suspect Pawan Gehalon, released another suspect who was detained — a molecular science expert — on Friday night. The move could prove controversial for the GRP considering he was kept in detention from Wednesday till Friday night, without him being produced before the court.
The police released him after they found that he was at his workplace at the time of the acid attack. The man, who was a former boyfriend of Rathi’s close friend, was picked up because his description matched that of the attacker.
IPS officer-turned-lawyer YP Singh said: “There is no provision under the law to detain a person without a formal arrest. This amounts to illegal confinement of the concerned person. Such person can be summoned as a witness. This incident can also become a human rights issue if the person pursues it, as his freedom was curtailed and this amounts to informal arrest.”
After the detained suspect’s release, the investigation seems to be falling apart, especially after GRP has found that Gehalon was neither in Mumbai nor in Delhi when the attack happened.
“Mobile phone tower location of Gehalon has revealed that he was not in Mumbai, but at his native place, Rohtak. He was arrested after he was found to resemble the suspect’s sketch and the person seen in Bandra terminus footage and after Rathi said that she had seen him at Delhi station,” said a GRP official, requesting anonymity.
The accused had attacked Rathi after she got off the Delhi-Bandra Garib Rath with her family around 8am on May 2. The police had said the accused, who was travelling in the same train as the victim, was carrying at least a litre of what is suspected to be sulphuric acid.
The GRP, which failed to establish anybody’s role in the attack, is now exploring the angle of a hired attacker. Prabhat Kumar, commissioner of GRP, did not respond to calls or messages, neither did any other senior GRP officers.