Supreme Court tells UP govt to file report on Unnao case
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has got cracking on its probe of the road crash that left the Unnao gang-rape survivor and her lawyer battling for life and killed two of her aunts, booking Uttar Pradesh legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar, his brother Manoj Singh, the son-in-law of a serving state minister and seven others on charge of murder and other counts.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, meanwhile, took cognizance on Wednesday of a letter written by the 19-year-old woman and her family, expressing concern over threats to their lives, and directed the Supreme Court registry to place the matter before him on Thursday. CJI Gogoi appeared unhappy with media reports highlighting how the letter dated July 12 had not drawn his attention. He said he learnt about the letter only through the media.
Sengar, a four-time MLA accused of raping the 19-year-old woman in 2017, and the nine others were also charged with attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation over Sunday’s crash in Rae Bareli in which a speeding truck rammed head-on into a car carrying the rape survivor, her lawyer and the other women. Sengar is in jail in connection with the rape case.
The CBI lodged a first information report (FIR) on Tuesday night on the basis of one registered by Uttar Pradesh Police based on a complaint by the woman’s uncle at Gurubakshganj police station in Rae Bareli.
In the FIR, CBI named the Sengar brothers and their alleged associates, identified as Vinod Mishra, Hari Pal Singh, Navin Singh, Komal Singh, Arun Singh, Gyanendra Singh, Rinku Singh and advocate Awadesh Singh. Ten to 15 other people, who weren’t identified, are also suspects.
Arun Singh is the block pramukh (chief) of Nawabganj in Unnao and son-in-law of Ranvendra Pratap Singh alias Dhunni Singh, MLA from Fathepur and an Uttar Pradesh minister with independent charge, who oversees the ministries of agriculture, and agricultural education and research in Yogi Adityanath’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government .
When HT tried to reach the minister on his phone, an aide who answered the call said he was busy in a meeting and not immediately available for comment.
The CBI, which is also probing the rape case, filed a charge sheet against the MLA and his kin earlier this year. Sengar was arrested on April 13, 2018, for allegedly raping the woman at his residence in June 2017, when she was still a minor.
On Wednesday morning, the moment a bench led by Gogoi assembled to hear the matters listed for the day, the CJI remarked: “This morning I read in the papers that the Unnao victim had written to the Supreme Court. I was informed about the letter yesterday. I have not yet seen the letter. It is yet to be placed before me. Unfortunately, the letter is yet to see the light of the day and newspapers flashed the news as if I have read it.”
The CJI also sought an explanation from the Supreme Court secretary general on why there had been a delay in taking action on the letter in which the victim had urged the court to order registration of a criminal case against those who threatened her to withdraw the rape cases she has lodged.
“We try to do something constructive in the midst of this highly destructive volatile environment and this happens…” justice Gogoi said, in an apparent reference to a recent order he has passed to set up special courts to hear cases of sexual assault on children.
The rape survivor and her lawyer have been battling for life in Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University since the collision, which her family have blamed the lawmaker of masterminding . The collision took place when the woman, who has accused the BJP MLA of raping her on the pretext of arranging a job for her, was returning after meeting her uncle, lodged in Rae Bareli prison in a case of firing a gun and attempt to murder registered against him in Unnao in 2000.
On Wednesday, one of the aunts, who died in accident, was cremated amid tight security in Unnao.
A CBI spokesperson said a special team formed by the agency to probe the case reached the site of the collision on Wednesday in the Gurubakshganj area of Rae Bareli.
“The CBI has constituted a team for speedy and smooth investigation of the case. The team inspected the crime scene and the truck which had hit the white Maruti Swift car. The team also met some eyewitnesses in the case and discussed the investigations with the forensics team that had reached the spot after accident,” the agency’s spokesperson said.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the number plate of the truck, which was coming from the opposite direction on the wrong side, was smeared with black paint and grease.
The CBI team that went to the spot also spoke to police officers who were the first respondents after the accident was reported. “The team will also record statements of the police officers in the security cover of the woman and will seek their responses on why they did not accompany the victim on Sunday when the accident took place,” the agency’s spokesperson said.
The FIR on the road crash was first registered by UP Police on Monday based on a complaint alleging “conspiracy” behind the car crash by the woman’s family members. The mother of the rape survivor has also alleged that Sengar was behind the accident.
On Tuesday, the Centre handed over the probe to the CBI on the recommendation of the Uttar Pradesh government.
In a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office, the family demanded his intervention in the case even as opposition parties stepped up pressure for the MLA’s expulsion from the BJP.
Meanwhile, visitors to the Sitapur district jail, where Sengar has been lodged since May 2018 after his arrest, have come under the scanner after CBI took over the probe into the road crash.
People privy to the investigation said a CBI team was likely to visit the jail soon. CBI detectives have been in touch with the police in Sitapur and sought details about those who visited the prison in recent days to meet Sengar, the people said on condition of anonymity.
A police officer posted in Sitapur said video footage of four people who visited the jail three days before the road crash in Rae Bareli on Sunday had already gone viral on social media, and showed reporters clips from the video.
The police officer cited above said the video footage showed a sports utility vehicle bearing an Unnao licence plate at the prison. It was in the SUV that four people visited the jail to meet the MLA.
The official said the CBI was likely to scan all footage to ascertain the likely involvement of the MLA and his aides in the alleged conspiracy behind the road accident.