Unnao case: Truck was not on seizure notice as claimed by owner
The controversy over the blackened number plate of the truck, which rammed a car carrying the Unnao rape survivor in Rae Bareli, deepened on Saturday with the financer of the truck refuting the owner’s claim that the non-banking company had threatened the owner on a defaulting loan.
The owner, Devender Kishore Pal, had told the police on Monday that he had smeared the truck’s number plate with black paint to dodge the finance company as he had missed payments on his loan instalment.
According to CCTV footage seen by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials, the registration plate of the truck was not blackened a few hours before the accident.
The Unnao rape survivor – who had accused expelled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar of raping her in 2017 — and her lawyer were critically injured in Sunday’s accident. The woman’s two aunts were also killed in the crash that the woman’s family alleges was a “conspiracy” against the rape case.
“As per the interrogation of the driver and the [truck] cleaner, the vehicle was going back to Banda after delivering sand in Rae Bareli. The owner said that he painted the number plate to make it difficult for his financers to identify the truck as his loan instalments were due,” a police officer privy to the probe told HT on condition of anonymity. The truck driver Ashish Kumar Pal and cleaner Mohan were remanded to three-day CBI custody. However, the financing company has denied that it put any pressure on the truck owner to pay missed loan instalments.
Ritesh Kumar Singh, senior officer of Orix Leasing and Financial Services Limited, a Mumbai-based non-banking finance company, said he couldn’t comment on why the truck’s number plate was painted black but pending loan instalments couldn’t have been a reason.
Insisting that the company doesn’t seize vehicles without issuing a notice, Singh said Pal was an old customer and had got three trucks financed. “Instalments for two are still on while for one vehicle, the dues have been cleared. Four instalments were defaulted but [out] of these, two were paid in July. Since he [Pal] was clearing the loan, there was no reason to issue any notice or seize his vehicle,” he said.
Singh added that the company only seizes a vehicle once it becomes clear that the owner is not in a condition to pay the instalment.
The company’s collection agent, Shashi Kumar, also said there was no pressure on Pal for defaulting on payments. The CBI on Saturday questioned Sengar, who is lodged in a prison in Uttar Pradesh’s Sitapur district, on charges of raping the woman (who was a minor at the time) in 2017. The CBI team questioned Sengar for several hours in Sitapur district jail, according to officials, days after the Supreme Court asked the agency not to take more than a fortnight to complete the investigation. Sengar and nine others were also booked for murder by the CBI after Sunday’s accident. His arms licences for a single barrel gun, a rifle and a revolver were cancelled on Friday, some 15 months after he was arrested on April 13, 2018. Doctors at Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University Trauma Centre on Saturday said that the 19-year-old rape survivor, who is on ventilator support, remained critical as she has developed pneumonia.