New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance of reports that a law student has gone missing from Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur after she accused former union minister and BJP leader Swami Chinmayanand of sexual harassment.
The issue, which was mentioned before the apex court on Wednesday by a group of lawyers, would come up for hearing on Friday before a bench of Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna.
The group of lawyers, in a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, had requested the court to take suo motu action based on media reports that the student had gone missing on 24 August.
"Your lordships, we the undersigned members of the legal fraternity and practising lawyers of this court are extremely disturbed and concerned about the wellbeing of the girl concerned. We as a society cannot allow another 'Unnao case' to happen. This court has been interfering in letter petitions when it comes to the protection of human rights," the letter said.
It urged the court to take cognisance in the matter and issue notices to Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and Director General of Police along with the principal of the college, where the woman is studying so that immediate action can be taken to trace her.
It also referred to the reports about the video clip in which the woman is speaking about a threat to her and her family's life.
Uttar Pradesh police on Wednesday released posters of the missing student whose father has alleged she and some other girls were sexually harassed by Chinmayanand.
The Uttar Pradesh police has released 'missing person' posters of the woman to help trace her. Apart from the woman's name, it carries her photograph, address and the name and phone number of her father. It also carries the mobile numbers of the inspector and the circle officer.
However, the matter remains sensitive as under law the authorities are duty bound to protect the identity of the survivor, should she make that request. In this case, it wasn't clear if the survivor's family were consulted by the police before publishing of these posters.
Meanwhile, the FIR registered by police does not mention sexual assault and the case is filed under IPC sections related to abduction with the purpose of murder and criminal intimidation.
City Superintendent of Police Dinesh Tripathi said, "A number of teams of the district police have been formed to recover the girl, but she is untraceable."
Stressing that this is the normal process followed in such cases, he said posters are issued for the "kidnapped persons". They come from the state capital and are sent to all police stations, the official added.
The mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of a post-graduate student, who levelled harassment charges against Chinmayanand, continued on the sixth day as her family awaited any concrete information about her.
She had not named Chinmayanand in the video but said "a senior leader of the sant community”. The politician, who faced similar accusations in 2011 and was booked for raping a woman who stayed at his ashram, has disputed the charge.
UP police claimed the student was spotted at a Delhi hotel on Wednesday but had left the place before officials reached there. A search was underway to trace her.
On Thursday, Kotwali police station in-charge Pravesh Singh said the woman's hostel room in Shahjahanpur was sealed last evening to avoid trespassing and evidence tampering. Her mother had visited the hostel on 24 August after the news the student had been missing spread but she found her room locked.
Uttar Pradesh Women Commission chairperson Vimla Batham talked to the "family members of the kidnapped girl and assured them justice by ensuring unbiased probe and her recovery," the Commission said in an official statement.
Batham also talked to the Shahjahanpur SP and the Bareilly Zone ADG and inquired about the case, a day after the commission sought a report from the district administration.
The student's college's principal told PTI that though classes began on 5 August, she has not attended any since. He said she had begun working at a library after college hours in July 2018.
In the video she posted online, the student alleged she has "evidence" that the 72-year-old three-time Lok Sabha member, who was a minister of state in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, had harassed and threatened to kill her.
The Shahjahanpur police had on Tuesday lodged an FIR against Chinmayanand after the student went missing following her allegation in a video clip that he had been harassing her.
The woman's father alleged that she has gone missing at the behest of the 72-year-old BJP leader, who heads Mumukshu ashram. She is a post-graduate student in one of the colleges run by the ashram.
But the politician's lawyer Om Singh claimed his client was being blackmailed and had received a message on WhatsApp on 23 August, the day the video surfaced, demanding Rs 5 crore ransom.
"There is not an iota of truth in their claims," the lawyer said.
The student's mother has said she talked to Chinmayanand over the phone after visiting her hostel and he told her he was in Haridwar and will try to find her after his return to the city.
The same day, her father said, the family received a call from the woman and she told her mother she was fine.
Her father said he called back on the phone number and was told it was the reception of a hotel in Mahipalpur in Delhi. But, according to UP police, she was spotted in a hotel in Delhi's Dwarka on Wednesday and she was seen accompanying a man in the CCTV footage.
Updated Date: Aug 30, 2019 08:51:41 IST