The Delhi Police have informed a city court that it is yet to find any evidence to confirm that a nine-year-old Dalit girl was raped before she was allegedly murdered and forcibly cremated at a village near the cantonment on August 1, 2021.
The investigating officer (IO), Richhpal Singh, told the court that at the current stage, it was not possible to conclusively say that the victim was raped. Four men have been arrested for the crime and are in jail. On a specific query by Additional Sessions Judge Ashutosh Kumar, Singh (the IO), told the court that he cannot ‘conclusively’ say as to whether the victim was sexually assaulted before allegedly being murdered.
“The IO has further admitted that neither any statement of any eye-witness nor any other evidence, including medical or scientific, could be collected so far to confirm as to whether the victim child was raped or not. He has further submitted that at this stage, he cannot conclusively say as to whether the victim child was raped or not,” the court noted in its order.
In his report, Singh also told the court that as per the post mortem of the victim conducted on August 3, “No definite opinion can be ascertained with regard to any sexual assault on the body of the deceased.”
The IO in his report said, “It is very clear that the body was burnt after the death of the deceased.” The police also said that it only had the disclosure statement of two of the four accused admitting to the crime.
“The IO has stated that the disclosure statements of the four accused persons have revealed that accused Radhey Shyam and Kuldeep Singh had raped & killed the minor child victim and that the remaining two accused, namely Salim Ahmad and Laxmi Narayan, had helped them in trying to cremate the deceased minor child,” the bench stated in its order.
Radhe Shyam, the priest at the local crematorium where the victim’s remains were found, is the prime accused in the case. The police reported that Shyam and Singh, in their disclosure statements, admitted to raping the victim. But under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, disclosure statement or confessions made to a police officer is not admissible if not supported by additional evidence.
The submissions were made while hearing an application by the New Delhi District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) seeking compensation for the victim’s family according to the state compensation scheme.
On August 1, 2021, the Dalit girl was raped and killed allegedly by a priest and three of his male associates at a crematorium in Purani Nangal village near Delhi cantonment in southwest Delhi. The four men then cremated her body allegedly without her parents’ consent or the police being informed. The accused 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.
Village residents and Dalit groups blocked local roads and protested against the crime for days, prompting prominent Opposition politicians to visit the family and announce compensation. The accused have been booked under sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 along with the relevant sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
On August 4, 2021, the autopsy of the victim’s body had come back inconclusive for rape. At the time, the three-member medical board conducting the autopsy told police that it will be impossible to arrive at a conclusion because only charred remains were available for them to examine.
The victim’s parents, through advocate Jitendra Kumar Jha, have moved the Delhi high court seeking a judicial probe into the alleged laxity of the police officials in conducting the preliminary probe, while also urging for a Special Investigation Team investigation in the alleged rape and murder.
“We have already filed a petition on the administrative failure in conducting the initial probe and delay in registration. It is being processed by the registry and might get cleared by Monday,” said Jha.
The court awarded an interim compensation of Rs.2.5 lakhs to the parents for the loss of life of the minor girl. However, the judge refused to give any interim relief for the alleged rape of the victim noting that the IO was not sure whether the assault happened or not.
“As regards the interim compensation on the additional ground of the alleged rape of the victim, in view of the submissions of the IO and in view of the fact that the investigating agency itself is not sure as to whether the victim was raped or not, the interim compensation qua the same is not allowed at this stage,” the court noted.
The court in its order further stated that, “Liberty is granted to move a fresh application to that regard, in case the investigating agency collects further material or comes to the conclusion that the victim child was raped.”
As per the government’s victim compensation scheme, the maximum compensation awardable in case of loss of life is Rs.10 lakhs. The court granted 25 per cent of the compensation amount as interim relief. The court also sent the accused to 14-days judicial custody after they were produced at the end of their three days custodial investigation.
The incident sparked uproar, following which several people, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal met the victim’s parents. Gandhi tweeted pictures with the parents on August 4, following which his Twitter account was locked by the social media company for violating India’s laws on not identifying rape victims.
Kejriwal ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident, announced financial assistance of Rs.10 lakhs for the girl’s family and said the city government would appoint top lawyers to represent them.