Kotkhai schoolgirl’s father, Shimla NGOs want case to be taken away from CBI after forensic experts point to gangrape
The rape and murder of a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Kotkhai in July 2017 is back in the spotlight after two forensic experts testified in a Chandigarh court last week that more than one person was involved in the crime. Though the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation after a police probe, the girl’s father and two Shimla-based non-government organisations on Tuesday called for a fresh investigation.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NGO Madad Seva Trust member Vikas Thapta said, “A judicial probe is needed as the CBI investigation ignored many aspects that led to the arrest of only a woodcutter. The testimony of the two forensic experts has raised questions about the CBI probe.”
Thapta said he had raised the issue with the Prime Minister’s Office thrice. “The PMO marked a letter to the state government. The state home department replied that the CBI was investigating the matter,” he said.
The rape victim’s father, who is a farmer, said: “From Day 1, I’ve been saying more than one person was involved. I’m not satisfied either with the police or the CBI investigation. The government should reinvestigate the case. I firmly believe all those who raped my daughter were drug addicts.”
Stating that the Shimla police had uploaded photos of five accused on its Facebook account only to delete them, he said, “The probe has been influenced. There’s a conspiracy. Police and investigating agencies are playing into the hands of bigwigs. The real culprits should be hanged.”
Another local NGO, the Gudiya Nyay Manch, has sought a reinvestigation. “We will be forced to take to the streets if a fresh probe is not announced,” said convener Vijender Mehra.
Last week, HV Acharya, assistant director, Forensic Science Laboratory, Gandhinagar, and Himangi Shah, assistant director of the forensic physiological division in the FSL directorate, were cross-examined by the defence counsel in a special court in Chandigarh. They had conducted the polygraph test on the five accused, namely Ashish Chauhan, Rajinder Singh, Lokjan, Deepak and Subash Singh.
THE CASE SO FAR
On July 4, 2017, the student of Government Senior Secondary School, Mahasu, went missing after attending classes. Two days later, her naked body was found in the woods at Bankufar near Hilaila village. The incident triggered protests across the state and a mob even set the Kotkhai police station ablaze. A special investigation team (SIT), led by inspector general of police ZH Zaidi, arrested six persons on suspicion. One of the suspects, Nepali labourer Suraj Singh, died in police custody on July 8 in what the police claimed was a scuffle with another suspect in the lock-up. The CBI arrested nine policemen, including Zaidi, superintendent of police DW Negi and deputy superintendent of police Manoj Joshi, after the custodial death.
Though the three senior policemen were reinstated on November 23, the state government is yet to assign them posts. “We fail to understand the government’s haste. The forensic report citing the involvement of more than one person in the crime also raises doubts about the CBI probe,” said CPM leader and former Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan.
The BJP had made justice for the victim a poll issue and blamed the Congress for the deteriorating law and order situation.