The family of the first accused arrested in the gang-rape of a young photojournalist in Mumbai on Saturday said he is minor, a claim, if found true, could see him escape a stringent prison sentence and spend just three years at a correctional facility.
Sarnabai, grandmother of Chand Babu Sattar Shaikh alias Mohammed Abdul, who was arrested on Friday, has produced a certificate before the police which showed his date of birth as 26 February 1997.
The police, however, claim Chand was aged about 19 and dubbed it as attempt by his family to save him. They also claimed Chand had tampered with the document to escape stricter punishment under the anti-rape law which provides for imprisonment of not less than seven years and may extend up to life.
"He is a very good boy. He cannot do such a bad thing. He is only 16 years of age. I have document to prove that and I will show it to the court," Sarnabai told reporters at her shanty at a Dhobi Talao slum.
She said Chand had left home at around 5.30pm on Thursday, the day of the incident, and when he returned home at 8 pm, he was shivering because of fever.
Chand's neighbours, however, described him as a petty thief who took drugs and drank.
Police sources said Chand was involved in criminal cases earlier too and had some knowledge of law. They said he had tampered with the certificate to pass himself off as a minor to escape tough punishment.
Sources also said Chand might have told his grandmother to show the certificate to the police to mislead them about his age.
An ossification test would be conducted on the accused, who was on Saturday remanded in police custody by a magisterial court, to determine his age, they said.
About his grandmother claiming his innocence, police said Chand had confessed to the crime during interrogation.
The photojournalist, who worked as an intern with an English magazine, was gangraped by five men on Thursday evening when she had gone to the deserted Shakti Mills compound in Lower Parel with a male colleague on assignment.