Delhi: Charges filed in 9-year-old Dalit girl’s murder
The Delhi Police on Saturday charged a priest and his three accomplices with the rape and murder of a nine-year-old Dalit girl, whose body was found at a crematorium in the cantonment area, sparking protests by activists and politicians in the national capital.
In the charge sheet, the police used sections 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 against Radhey Shyam (priest) and his accomplices Kuldeep Singh, Salim Ahmad and Laxmi Narayan.
The 400-page charge sheet was filed on Saturday afternoon. The court is yet to take cognizance, and will hear the case on August 31.
The girl, from a Dalit family in a village near Delhi cantonment, was found dead by her parents in a local crematorium earlier this month. The accused — a 55-year-old priest and his three associates — say the girl died of electrocution while fetching water from a cooler but the family alleges that the suspects hurriedly cremated the body after raping her. The four accused are in jail.
Delhi Police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal confirmed that the charge sheet was filed before metropolitan magistrate Manu Shree of the Patiala House Court. A charge sheet is a record of documents submitted by police to a court, listing the details of a case and the evidence collected against an accused person. It is on the basis of the charge sheet that a court starts trial in a case.
Officials aware of the details of the police investigation said that the Delhi Police have maintained in the investigation that the minor girl did not die of electrocution as was claimed by those arrested; and that two of them raped her inside the crematorium before murdering her.
Though no senior police officer authorised to issue press statements commented on the details of the charge sheet, HT has learnt that the police based their findings on three aspects – confessions of the four arrested men made to the investigating officer; circumstantial evidence; and revelations by people connected to the case.
To be sure, the confession 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.
Because the body was charred, a medical board that conducted the post-mortem examination was unable to confirm rape. The police have also taken the help and comments from “experts in odontology” for their investigations.
“We have sent her teeth and bones to the experts. Prime facie, the experts concurred that the child did not die of electrocution. Besides forensic experts also confirmed that the water cooler did not have live current so the child could not have died of electrocution, which was claimed by the arrested person. The reports of the teeth and bones sent to the forensic laboratory will confirm electrocution. The result is awaited,” an officer aware of the details of the charge sheet said, asking not to be named.
Another officer said that of the four arrested men, two – Salim Ahmed and Laxmi Narayan – confessed that priest Radhe Shyam and Kuldeep Singh sexually assaulted the girl and they, too, helped Shyam and Singh in the murder and destroying the evidence.
The court is likely to take cognisance of the charge sheet on Monday.
According to the contents of the FIR filed by the girl’s mother, on the evening of August 1, the child went to fetch cold water from the water cooler installed at the crematorium. At around 6pm, the priest and the three employees of the crematorium called the child’s mother and informed her that her daughter had died of electrocution. The family told the police that the four men also showed the burn marks on her body. The four men allegedly told the child’s parents that it was better to hurriedly cremate the body because if they informed the police, the body would be sent for autopsy.
The family also alleged that the four men said the child’s organs would be removed and sold by doctors. The four then cremated the body. But in the middle of the cremation, the girl’s mother suspected foul play and informed neighbours after which locals reached the crematorium, stopped the cremation and managed to retrieve charred remains of the girl’s body. The girl’s family then filed a complaint of rape, suspecting that the child may have been sexually assaulted and murdered.
The rape and murder of the minor girl triggered protests in the Delhi Cantonment area. Many senior political leaders such as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal visited the family and assured their support in ensuring justice.
Biswal said that while the police have filed a charge sheet within 30 days, a fast-track court will now conduct the trial in the case.