RAICHUR : For this Dalit couple, the past seven months have been a long nightmare, and an unending wait for justice. All they are asking for is that police bring to book those responsible for the disappearance and murder of their daughter, Priya (13). They claim that the chargesheet does not take into consideration a few aspects crucial to the case, and those who helped cover up for the accused.
Priya (name changed) went missing last August 26, during Sunday Mass, in a village in Manvi taluk. After a futile search, the parents went to Manvi police, who allegedly refused to take their complaint. Priya's father, Sundar, also accused the local pastor of hushing up the crime and the involvement of Subhash, the main accused.
Her mother Annamma recalled the day clearly. “That Sunday evening, locals informed us that Subhash had taken Priya from near the church after Sunday Mass.” They also learnt that on August 27, Subhash had returned home in an inebriated state and confessed to his mother about the crime. The case took a curious turn when Subhash, fearing arrest, allegedly committed suicide on August 28.
It was only after Subhash's body was recovered and the funeral held that police took Priya's missing complaint. On August 29, police found Priya's body at Durga camp, under Balagannur police station limits. A postmortem was conducted on August 30, but the report was handed over to the family only after 50 days, said Sundar. "First, a delay in filing an FIR and then, the report was dispatched late," he said.
The postmortem report from the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology of the Raichur Institute of Medical Sciences, said the death occurred due to "ligature strangulation". "On pursuance of autopsy findings, RFSL reports and histopathological report, I am of the opinion that death is consistent with ligature strangulation," said the doctor's report.
COPS BOTCHED UP CASE: LAWYER
In the FIR, police invoked Sections 363 (kidnap), 302 (murder) and 201 (shielding accused). Premdas, an advocate based in Delhi who is assisting Priya's parents, alleged that prima facie, it looks like police have botched up the case. “Although the girl was 13 years old, police did not invoke Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO). It is mandatory in missing and murder cases to invoke POCSO. Even in the chargesheet, POCSO was not mentioned, and the irony is that there is only one accused, the deceased Subhash,” he said.
Sundar also alleged that the priest, from Loyola Institution, hushed up the incident and also summoned him and Annamma and asked them to drop the case. "What is his role in the case? Police should name the priest as accused, instead, they have listed him as a witness," said Premdas.
Sunandamma, member of Jagrata Mahila Sanghatana, said that when Priya was abducted, she was wearing a green outfit, but her body was found clad in red clothes, along with a green one. "Police said the clothes were borrowed from Subhash's friends, but why have they not questioned them?," she said. The priest said that this was the third time Priya had gone with Subhash. “She was in love with Subhash, and had left the village with him twice earlier, but the issue was resolved by the elders," he added.
Chandrashekhar, the circle police inspector who handled the case and is now transferred to Chittapur in
Kalaburagi, said that POCSO was not invoked in the FIR, but was later added in the chargesheet. He refused to agree that the chargesheet does not mention POCSO either.