The judicial commission of inquiry into last year’s Moga molestation and murder case is veering round to the conclusion that the 13-year-old victim had fallen off the moving Orbit bus owned by the ruling Badal family because of a “faulty” hydraulic door.
This is evident from the proceedings of the Bali panel’s meeting of December 21 last year, in which justice (retd) VK Bali, who is conducting the investigation, observed that: “In some cases such like incident as the one involving the Orbit bus at Moga take place due to the fault in the hydraulic system of the door which can be operated by the driver and for the same it should be ensured that every day when the bus starts operation it is in order…”
When contacted on Friday, justice Bali said that the fact that the hydraulic system of the door had not been functioning had been noted by the commission, as it was based on the statement of the mechanic who had checked the bus. “But we have gathered other evidence also and at this stage I will not be able to give out what is in my mind,” he said, adding that the faulty hydraulic system had left the driver with no control over the hind door, “which could open on its own”.
The minutes of the meeting read: “Justice Bali pointed out that some cases such as this occur due to the fault in the hydraulic system of the door... and for that, it should be ensured before the start of every day that it is in order…” The girl, Arshdeep Kaur, had died on the spot, while her mother, Shinder Kaur, who was thrown off along with her for objecting to daughter’s molestation, had received critical injuries. The bus conductor and helpers were blamed for this incident of April 28, 2015. Amid national outrage, the opposition parties demanded a criminal case against deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal as co-owner of Orbit Transport.
The inquiry commission constituted in May 2015, within days of the incident, had three months to submit report. In December, its terms of reference were expanded to include suggestions to improve the bus-transport facilities. “The commission is done with the majority of its work but we are yet to record the statement of the victim’s mother. We are told that she is unwell, and the doctors who checked on her have confirmed that. However, her husband has assured us he’d bring her before the commission after February 10, when the trial court has to record her statement. Since her statement is critical, we will have to wait. Once we have it, we will submit the report within 10 days,” said justice Bali.
The trial is on in Moga. Police have filed a murder charge sheet against the driver, conductor, and two helpers. The victim’s father, Sukhdev Singh, and two other witnesses have turned hostile. During the last meeting of the commission, the chief secretary and principal secretary (finance) were absent. However, the other members, including additional directors general of police (ADGPs) Jasminder Singh and JPS Sahota gave suggestions to improve the facilities for bus passengers.
Commission’s original terms
Report reasons/causes for the incident
Give suggestions to prevent re-occurrence
To suggest ways and means for framing the time table of buses
To suggest ways to ensure the safety of pedestrians
To suggest ways and means of preventing dangerous and negligent driving
On July 28, 2015, police submitted a charge sheet against bus driver Ranjit Singh of Bathinda; conductor Sukhwinder Singh “Pamma” of Fazilka; and helpers Gurdeep Singh of Moga and Amar Raj of Bathinda. Besides criminal sections, the four have also been booked under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act.
April 29, 2015: Arshdeep Kaur (13) dies in Moga after being molested and thrown off a moving bus
April 30, 2015: A case under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 354 (criminal force to outrage woman’s modesty) of the Indian Penal Code registered at Baghpurana against the bus driver, conductor, and two helpers.
May 5, 2015: Retired chief justice VK Bali appointed to hold inquiry.
October 1, 2015: Justice Bali visits the victim’s village in Moga, records statement of 11 witnesses; victim’s family not found at home
December 11, 2015: The victim’s father, Sukhdev Singh, and two other witnesses turn hostile
December 21, 2015: The victim’s mother fails to appear before the commission for the fifth time
January 15, 2016: Victim’s mother fails to appear before the Moga trial court
February 10: Next hearing.