Chandigarh: The Central Bureau of Investigation has taken eight Himachal Pradesh police officers including an IG-rank officer into their custody up to September 4 for the custodial death of suspect in Shimla gangrape and murder case.
The eight policemen, including IG Zahoor Zaidi, were shifted to a CBI facility in Delhi on Wednesday.
Locals have been protesting alleging the state police is attempting a cover up to save influential people from punishment.
On July 4, Gudiya, a 16-year-old girl from Kotkhai, the apple belt of Himachal, 56 km from Shimla, went missing while on her way back home, from school.
Her brother usually accompanied her, but on that day he had stayed back at school for some sport-related activity. After a massive search, her body was found on July 6 in the jungles near the path that she took to and from her school, 5km from her home.
Medical examination confirmed rape and death by asphyxiation. Injuries on her face and body indicated resistance. The police registered a case under Sections 302, 376 and Section 4 of the POCSO Act.
On July 12, six youths - Ashish Chauhan (29); Rajender Singh alias Raju (32), driver of a pick-up van, Kotkhai; Subhash Singh Bisht (42), from Pauri Garhwal; Lok Jan (19) of Nepal; Suraj Singh (29) of Nepal; and Deepak (38), from Pauri Garhwal, were detained for interrogation. The last four were farm labourers working in apple orchards.
The very next day, Chauhan, an engineering student in Bengaluru and son of a prominent orchard owner, was arrested with other five accused.
Police said it was “an opportunity crime without planning” and they have “technical, circumstantial, physical, confessional and forensic evidence” against all the six arrested.
Trouble for the ruling Congress government in Himachal began on July 14 when a mob surrounded the police station at Theog, which is responsible in Kotkhai area. They also blocked NH 22. The locals claimed the police was shielding “influential real culprits”. The Virbhadra Singh government then ordered a CBI probe.
The case then took a turn for the worse with one of the accused, Raju, killing co-accused Suraj inside the jail premises.
Initial reports suggested there was a fight that broke out between the two inside the jail that led to Raju, a resident of Mandi but working as a manager at an apple orchard in Kotkhai, killing Suraj, a farm labourer from Nepal.
State health minister Kaul Singh Thakur on Wednesday said he did not know why the CBI has taken eight police officials into custody. He said it could be related to the custodial death but it is for the CBI to find out.
Former chief minister PK Dhumal of the BJP said there was an attempt to distort facts and evidence in the case. “We have been expressing our doubts over the investigation right from the beginning. It is good that CBI is carrying out this probe. I hope Gudiya gets justice,” he said.
“The July 4 incident is a blot on Himachal’s memory. The Government is trying to defend those who did this. The Chief Minister’s wife has been granting money to the victim’s family and telling them why they need a CBI probe when the state police doing its job,” said Anurag Thakur, BJP MP from Himachal Pradesh.