New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh Police are considering dropping sexual assault charges brought against Meerut dentistry student Siddhant Singh Panwar last week following the suicide of a fellow student, a Muslim girl, sources privy to the investigation told ThePrint.
The decision to reconsider charges framed against Panwar follows the emergence of new evidence suggesting the girl’s death by suicide was the outcome of the breakup of a consensual romantic relationship, said sources.
Footage retrieved from CCTV cameras shows the girl, aged 20, jumping off the fourth floor of Meerut’s Swami Vivekanand Subharti University where she and Panwar were second year BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) students, on 19 October. She succumbed to injuries at a hospital around 3 pm Friday.
Panwar was arrested by UP Police on the basis of an FIR lodged on a complaint by the girl’s father. In his complaint, the father alleged that Panwar “held her with ill intentions” and “slapped her” during an argument on the day of the incident.
According to the FIR lodged Thursday, a copy of which is with ThePrint, Panwar was booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertaining to sexual harassment (354A), assault or use of criminal force against a woman (354), voluntarily causing hurt (323) and intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of public peace (504).
Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC was later added to the FIR.
However, sources in the UP Police said Panwar, who has been in police custody since his arrest, may still be prosecuted under IPC Section 354 even if charges of sexual assault against him are dropped.
“So far, the investigation has revealed that the accused and the girl were in a relationship and had decided to take a break from one another in the last couple of days after differences cropped up. We have accessed WhatsApp chats and recordings between them,” said Meerut Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Rohit Singh Sajwan.
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Father alleges sexual assault
“He (Panwar) held my daughter with ill intentions and she tried to save herself. Due to this, the boy had nail marks on his face. He slapped her and tried to force himself on her. She then went to the library and jumped off to save herself,” read the FIR registered against Panwar at Jani police station in Meerut on the basis of a complaint by the girl’s father.
Speaking to ThePrint, the father alleged Panwar “had a history of doing this to women”. He added, “A few days ago, my daughter had told me he had hit another girl.”
On charges of sexual assault against Panwar, the father said: “I didn’t see it, nor did my daughter tell me about it. Others informed me about several things, so I can’t comment on it. I knew the boy, and had met him before.”
However, he denied the police’s claim that his daughter and Panwar were seeing each other. “My daughter was not in any relationship. I know the boy, but not that well. She had batchmates and he was one of them.”
The case, a senior police officer from UP said, reflects complex questions arising as a result of growing numbers of romantic relationships between fellow-students and co-workers from diverse backgrounds. “Families and individuals faced with the disclosure of relationships which are socially unacceptable sometimes file rape or sexual assault charges,” said the officer who did not wish to be named.
An IPS officer of the rank Inspector-General of Police (IG) familiar with the case added, “Laws relating to sexual harassment and rape are not really designed to deal with these kinds of relationships. They are, unfortunately, being used to punish or hide relationships that go wrong.”
‘Fight over loyalty test’
A source in the police said investigators suspect the girl and Panwar had an argument during which he may have allegedly slapped her.
“The boy (Panwar) and the girl (deceased) were in a relationship for the last year and a half. They had been arguing over the last couple of days. Girl suspected that the boy was cheating with another batchmate. She contacted the batchmate’s former boyfriend and they hatched a plan to conduct a loyalty test,” said a senior police officer privy to the investigation.
He added, “The other boy came from Mathura Wednesday and the plan was to roam outside campus with the girl (deceased) in a car. They had decided that when the boy (Panwar) would ask, they would tell him he was doing the same. They had also planned not to take calls. As soon as they (deceased and boy from Mathura) came to college, the accused (Panwar) confronted them and asked her why she wasn’t taking his calls.”
“When the boy (Panwar) came to know of this and confronted the other boy (batchmate’s ex), the latter revealed that he and the deceased had planned to conduct a loyalty test and also played audio recordings of an earlier conversation with the girl,” said the officer.
Explaining what the police suspect may have happened thereon, SSP Sajwan said soon after the confrontation, an argument broke out between Panwar and the girl during which he allegedly slapped her.
“She cried in the library and later went to the roof, and jumped.”
(If you are feeling suicidal or depressed, please call a helpline number in your state)
(This report has been updated with additional inputs)
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)
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