Shimla schoolgirl rape and murder: CBI to re-examine body of accused who died in police custody

In what is turning out to be another long drawn out case of violence, the investigation into the rape and murder of a 16-year-old in Shimla took a new turn on Sunday as the Central Bureau of Investigation decided to re-examine the body of an accused who died in police custody six days ago. The incident occurred early in July, but it took a long while for authorities to take action.

On 5 July, when the school-girl had not returned home, a search was undertaken by locals, until her body was found dumped in a nearby forest the next day. "There were cigarette burn scars on her body. She was subjected to inhuman treatment before she was murdered," India Today quoted the victim's uncle and sister as saying.

"On a complaint lodged by her father with police station Kotkhai, district Shimla, the FIR was registered against unknown persons," CBI spokesperson RK Gaur said about the case which has been filed under sections 302 (for murder) and 376 (for rape) of IPC, and section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

It took more than a week for the police to arrest the six accused. "In this case, we had no witness and no CCTV footage. Even most of the evidence at the crime spot was washed away by rains. We have now gathered sufficient human and technical evidence," inspector general Zahur H Zaidi said.

 Shimla schoolgirl rape and murder: CBI to re-examine body of accused who died in police custody

Representational image. AFP

But alleging that the real culprits were not arrested as they belonged to influential families, public demonstrations were staged across Shimla on 15 July where people demanded that lapses in the investigation should be corrected. The Congress also joined the clamour for justice. Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) president Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu said there certainly was some "negligence" in the police probe.

An irate mob allegedly roughed up the Shimla superintendent of police, damaged his vehicle and also those of the sub-divisional magistrate and station house officer of Theog, who took shelter inside the police station to escape violence.

The Himachal Pradesh unit of BJP then urged Governor Acharya Devvrat to dismiss the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government in the state alleging that the law and order situation had worsened.

The events took a drastic turn when one of the accused Suraj Singh succumbed to injuries caused during a scuffle in the lock-up with another accused Rajendra Singh, police said. His death triggered violent protests in Kotkhai last week. The same day, Himachal Pradesh High Court ordered the CBI take over the investigation.

Public outrage soon forced the state government to act against officials involved in the investigation. Within hours of the state high court entrusting the investigation of the case to CBI, the government transferred IGP Zaidi, who was heading the special investigation team (SIT), additional SP Bhajan Dev Negi, who was a member of the SIT, along with Shimla SP DW Negi, according to The Times of India.

CBI has now registered two FIRs on Saturday in the gang-rape and murder of the victim and the custodial death of the accused, after taking over the cases from the state police, and begun probe into the cases. The agency also constituted a SIT to be headed by a superintendent of police of the agency.

Various Nepalese associations, active in Himachal, have asked the district administration to release Suraj’s body, but it is unlikely that the CBI will release the body soon as forensic experts have been called for a re-examination. His body has been lying in the morgue in Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) since Wednesday, where doctors had conducted an autopsy and confirmed the death by injuries, Hindustan Times reported.

“So far, no one has come to take the body,” a doctor at IGMC said, requesting anonymity.

"The accused are roaming freely. The police has failed to arrest the actual perpetrators. Initially, the police had said it was a high profile case. But, when people mounted pressure, they arrested four labourers and a local, after 10 days," India Today quoted the victim's mother as saying.

The victim's family has refused to accept the police theory of rape and murder. The family now hopes that the CBI will do justice to the victim.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Jul 24, 2017 15:22:53 IST