The death of Burundi student Yannick Nihangaza after more than two years of coma since a murderous attack here is likely to increase the troubles of the accused.
The accused face a 10-year jail sentence for attempt to murder; and now the Jalandhar police have started exploring the legal possibilities of filing a fresh chargesheet under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code. A comatose Yannick was sent home to southeast Africa recently.
In October last year, a local fast-track court held seven attackers (Sumit Ralhan, 25; Sahildeep Singh, 21; Amandeep Singh, 24; Ramneet Singh Uppal, 24; Harsh Gosai, 24; Jaswant Singh, 21; and Amanbir Singh Bajwa, 25) guilty of attempt to murder under Section 307 of the IPC. Sections 452 (house trespass after preparation for injuring or wrongful restraint), 323 (causing hurt voluntarily), 148 (armed riot), 120-B (criminal conspiracy); and 149 (unlawful assembly) were also applied before putting them in Kapurthala Central Jail.
Accused Jaskaran Singh and Rantaj Singh were declared proclaimed offenders. The former had flown to Australia on student visa after the incident. A first-information report (FIR) in this regard was lodged at Model Town here. “It’s rare case where an assault victim died a year after the accused were sentenced. When it happens during trial, we update the chargesheet automatically but now after Yannick’s death, we’ll take legal opinion,” said Jalandhar deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Naveen Singla.
Senior police officials say that if Yannick’s father or any of his friends' files move court for reopening the case, they can file a fresh charge-sheet on the basis of the cause of death stated in the medical report. “If that does not happen, we’re not sure if the ‘attempt to murder’ sections convert to murder,” said an officer.
A Punjab Police officer of the inspector general (IG) rank opined that only the court had the powers to give directions. “I don’t think the police will take up the case, since the punishment is awarded already and the role of the police has ended with it,” he said.
Yannick was one of the two African students whom local youth had attacked on April 21, 2012. The Burundi student was moved to the Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) here and, three days later, to Columbia Asia Hospital, a private facility in Patiala.
One of the convicts, Ramneet Singh Uppal, is son of former superintendent of police Dharam Singh Uppal, who died on January 15, 2013, of cardiac arrest. Yannick was in the first year Bachelor of Science (computers) programme at Lovely Professional University at the time of the assault outside his rented accommodation in Dashmesh Nagar locality here.