Delhi Cantt rape case: Dalit girl died of suffocation during assault, say cops

This is the first time the girl’s cause of death has come to light, and it appears to debunk the claims made by the accused.
A paramilitary soldier stands guard near a pyre inside a crematorium where a 9-year-old girl from the Dalit community was cremated. Angry villagers held a protest saying the girl was raped and killed.(AP Photo)
A paramilitary soldier stands guard near a pyre inside a crematorium where a 9-year-old girl from the Dalit community was cremated. Angry villagers held a protest saying the girl was raped and killed.(AP Photo)
Updated on Sep 17, 2021 04:50 AM IST
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By Richa Banka, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A nine-year-old Dalit girl who was allegedly raped and murdered by a priest and his accomplices at a crematorium near Delhi cantonment on August 1 died due to “suffocation” during the sexual assault, the Delhi Police have told a city court ,citing disclosure statements of two accused in the case.

Quoting the disclosure statement of one of the accused, the police said in a document submitted in court -- parts of it were seen by HT -- that priest Radhey Shyam put his hand on the mouth of the minor victim while sexually assaulting her following which she couldn’t breathe and died due to “suffocation”. Kuldeep Singh allegedly held the victim’s hand while she was being assaulted by Shyam.

This is the first time the girl’s cause of death has come to light, and it appears to debunk the claims made by the accused. The accused, 55-year-old Shyam and his three associates, Kuldeep Singh, Salim Ahmed and Laxmi Narayan, have maintained that the girl died of electrocution while fetching water from a cooler. The girl’s family alleged that the suspects hurriedly cremated the body after raping her.

According to a statement made by the police before a Delhi court on August 12, Ahmed and Narayan were primarily involved in destruction of evidence and facilitating the cremation. These two have made disclosure statements before the investigators about the role played by Shyam and Singh in the crime.

To be sure, a confession or disclosure statement of any person made before a police officer is not admissible as evidence before a court unless it is backed by other evidence. Only a confession before a judge is admissible as evidence against an accused.

However, documents reviewed by HT revealed that the disclosure statements of Ahmed and Narayan have now been corroborated by the Forensic Science Lab (FSL) and post mortem (PM) reports, which also ruled out death due to electrocution.

The police recently told the court that there was no evidence of electrocution since there was “no electric current” in the body of the water cooler. It also said that, as per the FSL report, “no Biological fluid/DNA trace/sample was found on the body of water cooler which clearly suggests that the deceased was not electrocuted; because, in case of electrocution, DNA trace would be present on the body of the water cooler.”

“As per subsequent opinion of the PM report on the basis of autopsy findings of examined body parts, we could not find any evidence related to electrocution,” the court in its order on September 16 registered it as a statement by the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case.

The girl, from a Dalit family in a village near Delhi cantonment, was found dead by local villagers in a local crematorium on August 1 sparking protests by activists and politicians in the national capital. Three days later, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the family while the Bharatiya Janata Party accused them of politicising the crime. Gandhi later got into trouble for tweeting a photo of the victim’s family -- Indian laws bar any disclosure of a sexual crime victim’s identity -- and his Twitter account was temporarily locked.

On August 28, police filed a charge sheet, accusing the four people of rape, wrongful confinement, murder, destruction of evidence, and under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act.

The statement, filed by the IO in response to an application by the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) for interim compensation for the victim’s family on account of rape, maintained that accused Shyam and Singh were seen by two witnesses as taking the victim girl from verandah of the crematorium building towards Shyam’s room where she was allegedly raped. These two witnesses, according to the IO, have also recorded their statements before the magistrate.

The IO added that two other witnesses saw the two main accused taking the body of the girl from Shyam’s room to the hall with a water cooler, and kept her body on the bench. These witnesses also recorded their statements before the magistrate.

All the four accused persons gathered at the crematorium ground and with common intention decided to cremate the dead body of the deceased to eliminate the evidence of rape and murder, stated the disclosure statements.

The IO added that Shyam and Singh also made extra judicial confessions to two witnesses when the public had barged in the “Shamshan Ghat”, nabbed the accused persons and started asking them questions regarding the burning pyre.

“…they [accused] confessed to both of them [witnesses] privately that they had raped and murdered the deceased and later forcefully cremated her. The accused also pleaded with them to get the matter sorted,” the police’s reply to the court read.

The crime branch has also told the court that Shyam manipulated the entry in the Shamshan Ghat register by mentioning the time of death as 5.30 PM when the deceased was visible alive on the CCTV at 5.42 PM.

“This aside he (Shyam) mentioned the reason of death as illness instead of electrocution which he presented to be as reason of death to the deceased’s parents,” the police told the court.

On September 14, additional sessions judge Ashutosh Kumar directed that an interim compensation of 2.5 lakh be immediately disbursed to the girl’s family.

As per the city government’s victim compensation scheme, the maximum compensation awarded in case of loss of life is 10 lakh. The court granted 25 per cent of the compensation amount as interim relief.

Earlier, the court granted 2.5 lakh as compensation for murder under the same scheme and had asked the parties to approach again for interim compensation on the account of rape as the police, at that time, had not been able to “conclusively” say that the victim was raped before the murder.

The investigating agency also told the court that the search history of Shyam’s mobile revealed that he was addicted to porn content and sexually arousing material.

“He has visited around 1,300 porn websites from June 11 to July 30. He used to show the same porn content to the deceased to arouse her. He used his smart phone only to browse porn as no call logs were found on the phone. He kept the phone secret from everyone,” the police told the court.

On September 9, the court had taken cognisance of the police charge sheet, summoning the accused on September 29.

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Saturday, October 16, 2021