In a move designed to limit any fresh outpouring of public rage over its handling of the Delhi bus gangrape, the government has ordered a probe into allegations about the police's immediate response to the attack.
The decision came even as a Delhi fast-track court started in-camera hearing of the case on Monday. The home ministry probe into the police role will be conducted by a joint secretary in the ministry.
The probe will look specifically into the charges of incompetence and callousness made on TV by the friend of the 23-year-old woman who was brutally assaulted by six men on a moving bus on the night of December 16.
The friend was beaten up by the men and the couple was dumped on the roadside.The government has already constituted a commission under retired Delhi high court judge Usha Mehra to look more generally into any lapses by the Delhi police action.
The city's top cop Neeraj Kumar was under sustained pressure to quit in the days following the rape, as sometimes violent protests rocked the capital.
The ordering of a probe represents a volte-face by the MHA.
Soon after the rape, its top bureaucrat, home secretary RK Singh, fanned the flames by publicly praising the police for its timely action and swift investigation into the case.
The Delhi police reports to the MHA.
The victim's friend has alleged that the police response was slow and further hampered by wrangling over jurisdiction once police vans actually got to the spot where the couple lay helpless.
He also claimed that the police took them to a government hospital when it had the option of going to a private one that was nearby, and that he had lain on a stretcher for four whole days after the event with a broken leg.
The police have denied the charges , saying that two police vans had reached the site within nine minutes of having received a call, and there was no question of a tussle over jurisdiction because one of the vans left after administering first aid.
Sources however have told HT that within the first four minutes, another van had come to the spot but had left after the first of the two vans reached.
Police have also said they took the couple to Safdarjang Hospital because medico-legal cases were routinely referred there, and that the friend had been moved to a guest house the day after the attack.
The ministry probe will also cover the police's counter claims and check log books of the police control room to verify what time the vans reached the site and the action taken by them thereafter.
A committee headed by former Chief Justice of India JS Verma has been tasked with reviewing penalties for rape and is due to report on January 23.
The young woman was hurriedly shifted to Singapore where she died on December 29.