As outrage mounted over the alleged gangrape of a minor girl over a year ago, the Allahabad High Court today rebuked the UP government for being tardy in arresting the prime accused, BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, despite an FIR against him, warning that it may be forced to observe that the "law and order has collapsed in the State".
The FIR itself came days after the Unnao girl tried to self-immolate in front of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's house on Sunday accusing authorities of inaction, and the death of her father in custody the next day allegedly after being beaten up by the politician's brother and their henchmen in front of policemen. As the public outcry raged amid growing demands by political parties and civil society for the legislator's arrest, protests were also held outside Adityanath's house.
The police put the onus on the CBI to arrest the MLA, who has remained defiant and has dubbed allegations as a political conspiracy. The FIR was registered against Sengar under various sections of the IPC, including for rape, kidnapping and criminal intimidation as well as under provisions of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Under POCSO, an accused has to be arrested immediately.
The case was registered hours before the high court was to hear the matter, and so was the UP government's decision on transferring the case to the CBI late last night. "Police is not ready to register FIR of a minor rape victim. In spite of the SIT report, you are repeating that you can take any action only after further investigation. If this is the conduct of the police in the state, who will a victim approach to register a complaint," the court said. "If this is the stand you are repeatedly taking, then we will be forced to observe in our order that law and order has collapsed in the state," it said.
The court, which is expected to pass an order tomorrow, took strong objection to the delay in the MLA's arrest, as it sought details of the action taken by the government in the matter. The court was told by the Advocate General that three of the accused in the case were arrested, including the MLA's brother, but any further action would depend on statements of the complainant and witnesses.
Observing that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) report showed that the medical officers and police officers were hand in glove with the accused to save them, the court said since these officers have been arrested already why further investigation was needed to arrest the main accused. Senior Advocate G S Chaturvedi, who had moved the court, said the SIT headed by senior police officers conducted preliminary investigation and then filed a report after which the FIR was registered.
Meanwhile, the Centre issued a notification approving the CBI probe into the case, officials said later in the evening in New Delhi. When asked when Sengar would be arrested, Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar told reporters here that the CBI would take a decision on this. State Director General of Police O P Singh said the minor had not named the MLA before the magistrate earlier as she feared for her life. The government has decided to extend security to the family of the 17-year-old girl, he added. Kumar dismissed allegations that police was trying to shield the MLA.
Strong reactions came from opposition parties, who demanded immediate arrest of the MLA, with senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence over the Unnao rape case. Sibal also alleged that Modi was "not serious" about the crimes against women across the country, in an apparent reference to another rape case in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, where the BJP is in the ruling alliance with the PDP.
Several Union ministers including Mahesh Sharma, Piyush Goyal and Maneka Gandhi, however, sought to defend the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, saying it is committed to protecting women, and ensuring that law takes its course. Two doctors have been suspended and disciplinary proceedings initiated against three others for laxity in providing the victim's father with proper medical care and treatment prior to his judicial custody and at the district hospital, officials said.
Kumar said the government decided to transfer the case to the CBI after lodging the case into the incidents of June 4, 2017, (alleged rape) and since the two other cases of April 3 this year (cross FIRs on the beating up of the victim's father leading to his death) are connected, they will also be transferred to the CBI. The teen rape survivor demanded immediate arrest of the MLA, saying the CBI probe could be conducted later. "Why is he being shielded? If the MLA is allowed to remain out he will not leave my uncle... He had earlier too hatched conspiracies against my kin," she said.