Succumbing to political pressure and allegations of mishandling of the rape case of a 17-year-old girl against five constables, the police on Monday re-constituted the special investigation team (SIT) that had been put together on Saturday.
All six team members are women now. Further, an inquiry has been marked to senior superintendent of police (security) Maneesh Chaudhary to look into allegations of mishandling of the case registered on Thursday.
On Sunday, the victim was said to have refused to join investigation as she was allegedly harassed by police station staff during the case-registration proceedings on Thursday, and she wanted the inquiry to be shifted out of the hands of the UT police. Her cousin had faxed this information to the UT inspector general of police on Sunday night.
As fallout, the two SIT members removed are deputy superintendent of police (DSP), central, Ashish Kapoor and sub-inspector Usha Rani, who is alleged to have harassed the victim.
Now, the SIT will be headed by DSP, women cell, Kamla Meena, who has been retained from the original five-member team along with inspector Harjit Kaur. The new members are DSP Shweta Chauhan, inspector Kulbir Kaur, sub-inspector Aarti Goyal and assistant sub-inspector Chandermukhi.
Meanwhile, a local court extended the accused's police remand by two days and issued a notice to the victim to join the probe.
As for the alleged mishandling of the matter, police sources said the inquiry actually had been marked following the fax message sent on Sunday night by the victim's cousin, who has alleged that at the onset the cops present at the police station had asked the victim to strike a compromise with the accused.
Also, allegedly the statement of the girl was taken in the presence of two accused, who sat cross-legged on chairs even as the girl was made to sit in a corner. Inquiry officer Usha Rani is said to have commented that it was a case of "love gone sour".
Thus, SSP Chaudhary's would reportedly look into the behavior of the investigating officer, SI Usha Rani, during the initial proceedings. Other probe-related action taken before the constitution of the first SIT on December 21 would also be examined.
The police had booked five constables - Jagtar Singh (23), Akshay(24), Sunil Kumar (23), Himmat Singh (24) and Anil Kumar - under sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 376 (rape) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on Thursday, after the girl from Khuda Lahora finally approached the cops with a complaint that she had been raped repeatedly over the past two months.
Court extends police remand; victim told to join probe
The five UT police constables dismissed from service after rape allegations by a 17-year-old girl had victimised three other girls too, alleged the girl's counsel in the court here on Monday. Judicial magistrate Anil Kaushik also extended the police remand of the accused by two days.
In the application seeking extension of remand, the police had said that "the victim has not joined investigations despite repeated requested, thus the custodial interrogation of the accused be granted for identification of the places where all she was raped and to recover the vehicle in which alleged rape has taken place". The police also said the victim might make a few more revelations.
The court, while issuing a notice to the victim for joining the probe, told the police: "Do not call the victim to police stations. Let her join investigations at place of her convenience." The magistrate even asked the counsel of the victim to ensure that she joins investigations.
But the lawyer of the accused cops contended, "Police cannot be given free hand to confront the accused without sufficient and justified reasons. The vehicle in which alleged crime had taken place is police vehicle, and prayer for remand cannot be justified."
However, seeking to strengthen the case, the police on Monday told the court that one accused, Akshay, had admitted that he was "in relations with the victim".
'As cops revealed her identity on website, she's forced to stay away'
Slamming the UT police for failing to protect the 17-year-old victim's identity in the rape case against five constables, thus leading to further harassment, her counsel told the court, "The police, as per usual procedure, had uploaded the FIR copy on their website, which revealed her identity. As result, more people are visiting her and her family, forcing her to stay away from her house."
'Set up independent probe agency for cases against cops'
Chandigarh-based lawyer HC Arora has shot off a representation to the governments of Punjab and Haryana as well as the UT administration demanding investigation of all crimes against police personnel by a third-party independent agency and appointment of special prosecutors in such cases.
"There is a need of complete overhaul. The government should appoint a special public prosecutor, of the choice of the victim, from amongst distinguished lawyers, at least in all cases of heinous crimes like rape involving police personnel," said Arora, adding that he would move the high court on the subject.
Interview with the victim
'I do not trust the Chandigarh police probe'
The refusal of the victim in a rape against five UT police constables to join investigation has led to a recasting of the probe team, and also spotlighted the police's ineptness and alleged insensitivity in the matter. Monica Sharma met her on Monday for an interview arranged at the Sector-15 house of a woman employee of BJP councillor Saurabh Joshi, who has been instrumental in getting the case registered.
Q: How did you get the courage to take on the cops? And why did you take so much time to report as you were allegedly being victimised for over two months?
For the past three months, I was in two minds over going to the police, as the perpetrators are themselves cops. About a month ago, too, a friend took me to a police station to lodge a complaint but I could not dare to enter.
Q: What do you think would be the result of your tirade?
I only know one thing: I need justice. I do not know what would happen in the meantime, but eventually I want to win this case.
Q:Why are you not joining the investigation? Police also allege that your whereabouts were known only to BJP councillor Saurabh Joshi.
I do not have any trust in the probe team formed by the Chandigarh Police, so I did not meet them. Once it is changed I will cooperate.
[The interview was done before the team was re-jigged, and she could not be contacted later].
Also, since the day the accused were sent to police remand, I have not met Saurabh Joshi, who helped me in my time of distress. Today, I have come to Sector 15 only to give my statement. I was staying with my parents but with people coming and questioning me about the details of the incident, I got frustrated. I was at my relatives' since December 20.
Q: Why do you not trust the Chandigarh police that they will probe your case fairly?
It is my apprehension that it will not be a foolproof and fair case, and the men will be acquitted in the end. These cops are one of them (the police force) only!
Q: Your lawyer has claimed that the accused exploited three other girls. What do you say about it?
I only know what happened to me. I am not aware of what happened to anybody else.
Q: Were you abused by investigating officer sub-inspector Usha Rani?
I was not abused by the officer. She did not misbehave with me.
Q: How did the five cops harass you?
Akshay and Sunil raped me, while the other three - Himmat, Jagtar and Anil - used to pass lewd comments. They would tell me, 'Hamare saath bhi relation banao', and would often stalk me in a PCR vehicle. What I can recall is that Akshay raped me once while Sunil raped me three times.
Q: Do you want to pursue your studies further?
I want to study and earn my own living. Being the eldest of three sisters, I want to support my family. I had big plans but all that has been brought to ground now.