In a bizarre incident, the Road Transport Office (RTO) of Vadodara has received a request from the Local Crime Branch (LCB) of the district police to ascertain if a sports utility vehicle (SUV) would have “enough space" for rape.
Investigating an alleged rape case, the LCB asked the RTO to issue a certificate for a SUV, confiscated for the crime, to find out if the vehicle would have enough space after the front seat was “pushed back", an Indian Express report said. The crime branch also sought a report on how sturdy the vehicle’s central locking system was.
The officials at the Vadodara RTO, who were left baffled by the request, it was the first time they have had to examine a vehicle for such a reason. A Toyota Fortuner brand, the vehicle was owned by Bhavesh Patel, a former Padra Municipality councillor and former director of an agricultural produce market corporation (APMC). Patel is also a “notorious bootlegger", the report said.
“The RTO issues certificates after inspecting cars involved in hit-and-run and accidents, where we essentially certify the fitness of the vehicle to run on the road, the braking system, registration of vehicles, tracking owners and drivers’ licences that help police in case of accidents. This is definitely the first time that the police have asked for a technical certificate for the central locking system and the leg space that can be created by pushing back the seats — these are usually not required in other criminal cases. The RTO can only give the mathematical report. The department definitely cannot opine on whether the crime has occurred in that much space or not. It is for the police to prove," the Indian Express report quoted an RTO official, who did not wish to be named.
Meanwhile, the LCB officers said the certificate was needed to substantiate the case, currently based on the complainant’s statement. “The reason we have written to the RTO is to get the technical certificate and expert opinion on the vehicle to prove that such a crime could have occurred in the vehicle, as reported by the woman," LCB Police Inspector Divansinh Vala said.
The LCB also conducted “height tests" on the woman and the accused to appropriate the findings of the RTO report regarding the leg space available to commit the crime, Vala said. He further said that they have asked about the central locking system as they are anticipating that the defence will raise questions about why the victim did not open the door and escape when the vehicle was stationary.
The rape took place on the intervening night of April 26 and 27. The victim filed a police complaint on April 30 and the accused was held on May 2 from Jaipur in Rajasthan. Patel was remanded to judicial custody on Saturday.
Patel is an influential local leader with 18 other cases against him, the police said. Hence, it is aiming to build a “water-tight case" against him. “We are asking them (the RTO) specifically for two aspects that are critical to support the complainant’s version. One is the central locking system that can be operated only on the driver’s side and the second is the pushback of the front seat to create leg space for the accused to move over the victim. Once the two aspects are answered, we will present the case during the arguments in the trial," Vadodara Superintendent of Police Sudhir Desai told the newspaper.