The kidnapping and murder of six-year-old Mehram Singh Sandhu, whose highly decomposed, maggot-infested body was recovered from a garbage dump in Sector 69 on November 7, has exposed chinks in the protocol followed by police in cognizable offences.
While a Supreme Court ruling has mandated that preliminary investigations in such offences be completed within no more than seven days, the police kept groping in the dark and failed to make any headway even after 10 days of the kidnapping.
Worse, in violation of the apex court's directions, the police did not even register a case swiftly after Mehram's maternal grandfather approached them around 8pm on October 28, hours after the child was kidnapped.
According to complainant Balwinder Singh, showing no concern for the gravity of the situation, the cops at Phase-8 police station asked him and his kin to wait till morning, saying that the child could have wandered off with his friends.
Joginder Singh, a close family friend of victim, said Balwinder even told the police that Mehram's parents were having a matrimonial dispute, and his father's family could be involved in the kidnapping, but they failed to pay heed.
He added that realising police's reluctance, they held a protest around midnight, only after which a DSP and station house officer (SHO) Kulveer Singh agreed to question the family of Mehram's father. After questioning the suspects till 3am, the police assured them that the child would be traced on October 29.
However, they did not get any response from the police the next day, following which residents led by area councillor Parkash Vati blocked a road. The protesters were sent away by the police again with an assurance, Joginder added.
Area councillor Parkash Vati said a precious life could have been saved, had the police acted swiftly after getting a complaint.
Refuting the allegations, SAS Nagar senior superintendent of police (SSP) Inder Mohan Bhatti said the police were working under wraps in view of the child's safety. He claimed that the police acted on the complaint immediately and questioned the suspects the same day.
Detailing efforts made by the force, he said they had flashed the child's information immediately, and published advertisements in various newspapers, besides putting up posters of the missing child. He added that the police also procured call details of victim's Australia-based father on the same night.
The needle of suspicion points towards the victim's father. Therefore, we have zeroed in on his friends to get a lead in the case. We have also interrogated some history-sheeters, besides seeking information from the airport authority regarding children of Mehram's age who have travelled since he went missing.
After releasing the sketch of the accused and announcing a `1-lakh reward for anyone giving information about the accused, we have received around 200 phones calls.
Inder Mohan Bhatti, SAS Nagar SSP
How the cops botched up
Despite receiving a missing person complaint at 8pm on October 28, the police did not immediately register a case
Knowing that the kidnapper asked around for Mehram from children playing in a Phase-9 park, the police did not prepare a sketch and only did so after recovering the victim's body
It took the child's death for the police to announce a reward for information about the accused.