Chandigarh stalking case: Probe hits roadblock, courtesy poor CCTV footage

Sources said the footage is of poor quality and is not of much help to corroborate the charge of kidnap bid, as alleged by Varnika Kundu.
A screengrab of the CCTV footage released by the police.(TWitter/ANI video)
A screengrab of the CCTV footage released by the police.(TWitter/ANI video)
Updated on Aug 09, 2017 12:01 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | ByShailee Dogra & Tanbir Dhaliwal

Even after four days of registering a case of stalking against Vikas Barala, son of Haryana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Subhash Barala, and his friend Ashish Kumar, the city police are not sure whether to invoke the charge of attempt to kidnap against the duo.

Facing flak for diluting the charges against Vikas, 23, and Ashish, 27, the police late on Monday evening claimed to have retrieved closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage from five spots along the route on which Varnika Kundu, 29, alleged the two stalked her on Friday night.

However, sources said the footage is of poor quality and is not of much help to corroborate the charge of kidnap bid, as alleged by Varnika, and the police will have to rely heavily on her statement for taking the case to its logical end.

Another glaring lapse by the city police was that when it got done medical examination of the accused two hours prior to FIR was registered, the duo refused to give blood and urine samples. No medical examination was conducted after registration of the case.

“Their breath smelled of alcohol and their eyes were red (congestion of the conjunctiva) and both denied to give blood and urine samples to testify the blood alcohol content,” reads the medical examination report of Vikas and Ashish.

Punjab and Haryana high court senior advocate Atul Lakhan Pal said the police could have compelled the accused for medical examination. “It would have helped the police in quantifying the degree of offence,” he said.

Vikas and Ashish were arrested from the Housing Board light point late on Friday night. Varnika, a disc jockey, who was driving from Sector 7, Chandigarh, towards Panchkula at 12.35am, alleged the two men followed her in their SUV.

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.

Even as Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act (drink driving) was added after the medical examination of the accused stated “their breath smelled of alcohol” and Section 341 (wrongful restraint) of the IPC was added on the basis of Varnika’s statement before the magistrate on Saturday, Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) read with Section 511 (attempting to commit offences) of the IPC was not added in the FIR.

Varnika had mentioned kidnap bid in her Facebook post and the police complaint, though not before the magistrate.

Although sources in the police department claimed they have enough evidence to prove stalking and drink driving on the basis of Varnika’s statement and doctor’s report, other allegations cannot be proved yet.

After all five CCTV cameras of the UT administration on the stretch were found non-operational as the annual maintenance contract signed with a firm got over on July 24, police procured footage from five cameras installed at private establishments.

But the footage is grainy, and not reliable, said sources.

The footage from a Sector 9 wine shop — from where the accused bought beer — shows the two consumed alcohol in the SUV in which they stalked Varnika, said police.

Footage that the police claim to have retrieved from Sector 8, a private school in Sector 26, and near the Housing Board light point reportedly show the accused’s vehicle chasing Varnika’s car.

But the police are now trying to procure footage from the points where her vehicle was allegedly intercepted by accused.

Apart from this, they would be using the details of the call made by Varnika to the police control room (PCR) complaining about a vehicle following her and the mobile phone location of both the accused and Varnika to make a case against the accused.

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