In a “major lapse", the Delhi Police Crime Branch — which arrested hotel owner and accused Rinku in the Andaman gang-rape case where former chief secretary Jitendra Narain is the main accused — handed over Rinku’s phones to his brother-in-law after the arrest.
While experts call it a serious lapse that will dent the investigation, the Crime Branch said there was no destruction of evidence or any lapse. Cops blamed the Andaman & Nicobar Police for not informing the Crime Branch about seizing the phones that Rinku was using but did not respond as to why a team known for solving crucial cases in Delhi did not consider phones important evidence.
Later, when Andaman Police asked about the phones, the Delhi Police got them from Rinku’s brother-in-law though they are yet to reach the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
“We have arrested Rinku, who was wanted and had a reward of Rs 1 lakh on him, from Karnal in a case registered in Andaman. He had two phones which we handed over to his relative as there were no specific instructions from Andaman Police about seizing phones,” DCP Crime Branch Rajesh Deo told CNN-News18 over the phone.
Officials said Rinku was using two phones when he was hiding from the police — one was purchased on November 9 and another was locked, which he may have been using when the case was registered or since the crime was committed. Sources said the Crime Branch handed over the phones which may have crucial evidence or leads to Rinku’s brother-in-law before Andaman cops could have taken custody of the accused.
Meanwhile, Andaman Police is silent on the matter. News18 sent queries to SIT chief and ADG Andaman who is heading the department right now but he refused to talk over the issue.
The case reached Home Minister Amit Shah when a report was submitted by Andaman Police to the Ministry of Home Affairs after which Shah directed officials to take immediate action against the officer concerned as per law.
“Southern Range (SR) of Crime Branch arrested one Sandeep Singh alias Rinku, 38 YEARS was wanted in a rape case, in which the then Chief Secretary of Andaman and Nicobar has already been arrested by Andaman and Nicobar Police, registered at PS Aberdeen, Andaman & Nicobar Island. The accused is having reward of one lac (Rs 1,00,000/-) on his arrest,” Ravindra Yadav, Special CP Crime Branch, had said in a press release.
The Andaman and Nicobar Police had also requested help in arresting the remaining accused, Delhi Police had said.
The Andaman ‘jobs-for-sex’ scandal hit the news after key witnesses told the probe team that over 20 women were taken to former chief secretary Jitendra Narain’s home in Port Blair during his term, with some receiving jobs in exchange for being sexually exploited. Rinku was the first person who met the victims and later introduced them to another accused RL Rishi, Labour Commissioner.
A blunder, say experts
Retired Punjab DGP Shashi Kant, while speaking to News18, termed Crime Branch’s actions a serious lapse. “All the items must be handed over to the Investigating Officer concerned. In all cases, mobile phones are crucial evidence that carry important details. If that has not been done in such an important and sensitive case, it is a serious lapse which may dent the investigation. Kant has served at various key posts and was also ADGP Intelligence.
Similarly SS Deswal, former DG ITBP who was also Commissioner Gurgaon and investigated sensitive cases during his tenure in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), told News18 that whenever such an arrest takes place, the state police concerned has to make a list of inventory recovered from the accused.
“It is always important to make a list of items seized from the accused and hand them over to the investigating officer when he arrives,” Deswal said.
When asked if one has to give prior intimation to the police of other states about what to seize, Deswal said: “It is common sense to seize whatever is recovered from the accused.”
‘Sunanda Pushkar-like lapse’
The mystery death of Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar remained a curious case as police were accused of several lapses in handling the case initially.
In the Pushkar case too, police did not seize the mobile phones of the deceased at the time of the incident, which could have been crucial evidence. Instead, they seized the phone after a gap of about two weeks. As per the vigilance enquiry, mobile phones, along with Pushkar’s laptop, were taken to Dubai by her son Shiv Menon after her last rites. The Delhi Police seized her laptop on January 25 and her three blackberry phones on January 30, a report says.
Later, cops found that messages, emails and other details were deleted from the phone and even after sending them to Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), not all data was retrieved.
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