Death of Jain girl after fast: Mandatory 90 days over, cops yet to frame charges
The Hyderabad teen was declared “brought dead” at a hospital in the early hours of October 3, and doctors said she had died of cardiac arrest, caused probably by an imbalance in salts.india Updated: Jan 09, 2017 20:29 IST
Police are yet to frame charges against the parents of 13-year-old Jain girl Aradhana Samdariya who died in October last year, less than three days after ending a 68-day fast under the ‘tapasya’ ritual practised by her community.
The Hyderabad teen was declared “brought dead” at a hospital in the early hours of October 3, and doctors said she had died of cardiac arrest, caused probably by an imbalance in salts.
Following a complaint from the Andhra Pradesh State Child Rights Protection Committee, police registered an FIR against Aradhana’s parents, Lakshmichand and Manisha, on October 9 under section 304 (2) of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), and under the Juvenile Justice Act.
The child rights body alleged that Aradhana was forced to fast under pressure from her parents, who wanted to overcome losses in their jewellery business.
Child rights activist P Achyuta Rao alleged on Monday that police had deliberately delayed the framing of charges. “The mandatory period of filing a charge sheet (in court) against accused persons within 90 days of registering an FIR ended on in the first week of January. It shows the police have given a chance to the parents to go scot-free.”
He said since the charge sheet had not been filed, the Jain community would argue in court that police had failed to gather any evidence against Aradhana’s parents. “Even before they do so, we will move the high court again after Sankranti vacations to get an order for expediting the case,” he added.
Police, however, said they were still conducting investigations. “The hospital authorities gave us a report on the cause of Aradhana’s death, but we wanted some more clarifications from the doctors. We are awaiting the latest report,” Hyderabad (north zone) deputy commissioner of police B Sumathi told HT.
She said it was not easy to frame charges in the “very complicated” case involving the faith of a religious community. “First, there is no evidence to prove the girl died of fasting, as she had not complained of any health complications till the completion of the ritual. There is also no proof that the parents had forced her to do it. All the people we questioned said she had taken up ‘tapasya’ voluntarily. Secondly, not a single person gave a statement to us that she wanted to end her fast much earlier. Thirdly, there is no possibility of doing any post-mortem, as the body was cremated before the complaint was lodged with the police.”
Aradhana’s death had put the spotlight on the Jain ritual of ‘tapasya’. Amid debates, many Jain leaders came out in support of her parents, saying they were being targeted and the community was being maligned. According to Jain elders, the ‘tapasya’ that Aradhana undertook is voluntary and the first of nine steps (nav-pad) aimed at attaining salvation, and is not the same as the ritual of ‘santhara’ under which the elderly or the sick abstain from food until they die.