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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014

Minor sold for Rs. 70,000; police yet to register a case

Sanjeev Bhalla, Hindustan Times  Kapurthala, March 14, 2013
First Published: 19:58 IST(14/3/2013) | Last Updated: 20:00 IST(14/3/2013)

In a case in which all laws seem to have been violated with impunity and some by the state's law officers, a 16-year-old girl has alleged that he relatives sold her to a 38-year-old man in 2010. She was sexually abused and tortured all this time, and in January this year, managed to escape.

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She approached her maternal-uncle, a nearby Dhaliwal Dona village resident and they submitted a police complaint on January 14, 2013.

The girl, born on February 15, 1997, as on her school leaving certificate issued by in charge of Government Elementary School, Dhakkraan falling in Bholath subdivision has alleged that after the death of her parents, her maternal uncles; Mehnga and Barkat, both residents of Dhakkrahn village sold her to Lakhbir Singh, a 38-year-old resident of Dhandoi village in Batala, for Rs. 70,000.

However, apparently rattled by the news of her complaint to the police, her 'buyer and husband' Lakhbir Singh seemed to have admitted to a crime of human-trading by getting an affidavit made and attested by an Batal executive magistrate, paper number 81-82, on January 22, 2013.

The affidavit, a copy of which was made available to the media on Thursday, said that Mehnga and Barkat had taken Rs. 70,000 from Lakhbir for getting the victim married with him around three years back. The document also affirms that the money was paid through Mohinder Singh, a resident of Preet Enclave, Ladhewali village in Jalandhar.

Kishna, her maternal uncle, told HT, "After escaping, she reached my place and narrated her tale. I took her along with me and submitted a complaint to SSP Kapurthala, who marked an inquiry to DSP Subdivision, Paramjeet Singh. Since then, we have been called by the police five-six times. I am a daily wager. It is difficult to make regular visits to the police station. We have been receiving threats. The police delay in inquiry is making us anxious and worried."

When contacted, DSP Paramjeet Singh said: "We are trying to conduct an inquiry in detail. We are trying to locate Lakhbir Singh for his statement. A case will be registered after he is found and justified."

On HT's query that the accused's affidavit had been submitted, he said: "The affidavit does have the photograph of Lakhbir Singh. However, it does not prove that is the same Lakhbir Singh that married the girl. Lakhbir Singh's statement is vital. We are sending a messenger to him on Friday with directions to join the investigation."

SSP defies state government instructions
Setting aside directions issued by the Punjab chief minister directing district police chiefs to be more sensitive towards crimes related to women, and hand over their cases to women officers, Kapurthala SSP Inderbir Singh marked the inquiry in the case to DSP sub-division Paramjeet Singh. The police were also directed not to call women to police stations, but the victim was summoned five-six times.

"When the police officials registered her statement, there was no female staff in attendance," alleged the victim's maternal uncle.

In this specific instance, officer Gurmail Kaur had been working as DSP (headquarter), however, the SSP preferred to mark the inquiry to DSP sub-division.

"The matter was not related to the selling of minor girl only. We sensed a property dispute, and hence the decision to hand over the inquiry to DSP Sub division," the SSP later claimed.

However, a copy of the complaint does not indicate any reference to any property dispute.

Batala executive magistrate attests the affidavit confirming purchase of girl
Batal executive magistrate attested the affidavit that Lakhbir Singh claiming to have given Rs. 70,000 for a girl on January 22, 2013.

On the moral responsibility of executive magistrate, Gurdaspur deputy Commissioner Abhinav Trikha said, "Normally, attestation does not mean that we have validated the statement made by the deponent. It merely indicates that he made the statement in the attesting authority's presence. The statement might be true or false. It is right that if the executive magistrate had gone through the details of the affidavit, a serious note of the content should have been taken."

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