Two women burnt to death in an autorickshaw, in Connaught Place, in the early hours of Thursday. The women identified as Kherunisa (35) and Nisha (30) were charred beyond recognition.
Auto driver Harish Kumar (30) escaped unhurt while a third passenger, identified as Kamla alias Pooja, survived the fire with burn injuries.
“Though it looks like a case of accidental death, we do not rule out any foul play. We are waiting for the forensic results and the autopsy report to ascertain the cause of death,” said Shankar Dash, Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi).
The incident took place around 1.35 am on Thursday near Shankar Market in the Outer Circle of Connaught Place.
The autorickshaw was on its way to east Delhi with three passengers when the fire started.
A businessman saw the burning auto and made a call to the police.
“The auto was moving when it caught fire. The women might not have got time to get out of the auto. Fire department officials said CNG was still leaking when they were dousing the flames,” said Dash.
Kherunisa was a resident of Sonia Vihar in east Delhi and is survived by her husband Abdul Kalam, an auto driver, and four children.
Kherunisa’s landlord said she worked as a nurse. Her children said they last saw their mother on Wednesday morning, when she left home to got to her place of work.
“She called me around 5 pm on Wednesday and said she was going to Gurgaon for some work. Later in the night, she called up to say she was returning and had not gone to Gurgaon. I do not suspect anyone,” said Kalam, her husband.
Nisha was a resident of Ghaziabad and her husband Kamlesh is also an auto driver.
“After the auto caught fire, Kamla went to LNJP Hospital and got herself treated. We later traced the auto driver, Harish, and asked him to join the investigation. We are still interrogating both Kamla and Harish for more details,” said Dash.
Harish had come out of jail last week after serving a sentence under Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act.
Police are also investigating whether the women were under the influence of alcohol or had been drugged at the time of the incident.
“Though Kamla has stated that the fire was an accident, we are investigating all aspects of the case,” said Dash.
The police have registered a case of fire due to mischief at Connaught Place police station.
The post-mortem examination of both victims was done and reports are awaited.