Chandigarh stalking: After criticism over non-functional CCTVs, police say have got some footage
The probe into the stalking case against Vikas Barala in Chandigarh appeared to have run into its first obstacle – non-functional cameras along the route where the accused allegedly stalked the woman.
Chandigarh Police on Monday first said there was no CCTV footage available of an incident in which Vikas Barala, son of Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala allegedly stalked the daughter of a senior IAS officer. Later, it said it had got some footage showing the two cars from five camera, though it did not say whether these were cameras put up by the authorities or on private spaces.
A statement by the UT police said they had got the footage, but neither was it shared with the media nor was any detail given as to what it contained.
This came hours after outrage sparked by police’s statement that no footage was available. Earlier in the day, deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Satish Kumar had told the media that they tried to get CCTV footage from the cameras along the route on which the woman was allegedly chased, from Sector 7 to Housing Board traffic light point in Chandigarh, but all were found to be “non-functional”.
“The annual maintenance contract of the administration with the firm got over on July 24 rendering the cameras on the traffic intersections non-functional,” Shashank Anand, SSP, traffic, said. These five cameras are among the 50% other CCTVs not working since July 24.
The UT administration is responsible for the maintenance of these cameras. Superintending engineer (SE) Ranjit Singh too confirmed that only 50% of the cameras installed are functional. These cameras need to be upgraded but the firm has not been able to do this. There is also a dispute over payment, Singh said.
The CCTV footage will be crucial in the case to prove the allegations of the woman.
There are 14,000 more cameras installed through public-private partnership, but mostly in market and residential areas. Since the road used by the victim is a ‘highway’ there is a remote possibility of it being covered through these cameras, which are mostly low resolution, the officials said. They added that all the cameras installed in private areas are yet to be scanned.
“It is strange that the CCTV cameras of such high-profile areas were not working. This seems to be a cover-up,” a junior police officer was quoted as saying by IANS.
The incident took place around 12.35am on Saturday, when the woman, a disc jockey, was driving from Sector 7 in Chandigarh towards Panchkula. The victim alleged that Vikas, 23, a law student, and his friend Ashish Kumar, 27, followed her in their Tata Safari Storme. Both were drunk, she said, and at one point the SUV blocked her way and the person in the co-driver’s seat started walking towards her vehicle. As the case was registered for stalking under Section 354-D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code, which is a bailable offence when a person is booked the first time, the two walked free for the time being.
(With agency inputs)