Chandigarh: After almost two months, three migrant families of Ropar in Punjab have managed to get the authorities to look into their allegations of sexual assault of their minor daughters, who were found dead on 27 June.
On the plea of the fathers of the three victims, the Punjab and Haryana High Court last Friday issued a notice to the Punjab government asking why it didn’t probe the families’ allegations of a possible sexual assault of the three girls.
The three girls — two five-year-olds and one three-year-old — were found dead in their neighbour’s car, a day after they were reported missing by their parents at Chamkaur Sahib.
Initially, it was believed that the girls locked themselves inside the car and suffocated to death.
“The girls’ parents are migrant labourers from Bihar … it initially seemed that the three were playing together and entered the unlocked car parked nearby. Then they locked the car from inside without realising and could not get out. The next evening they were found dead in the car when the police and the families were looking for them,” said Harsh Chopra, the advocate representing the families in the high court.
The police initially registered a case of kidnapping under Section 363 (punishment for kidnapping) of the Indian Penal Code when the parents approached them to look for their daughters. Police later added Section 304-A (causing death by negligence) to the FIR when the bodies were discovered, and arrested the car owner for negligence.
Post-mortem indicated possibility of sexual assault
The families, however, felt there was more to their daughters’ deaths than just negligence. They alleged that the girls’ deaths were suspicious.
“The family filmed the girls’ burial and sent out an appeal to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to intervene and get them justice. In the video, they alleged that the girls had been strangled to death,” said Chopra.
The police decided to wait for the post-mortem report of the girls to know if they were murdered and/or sexually assaulted.
The post-mortem report, which came on 28 June, indicated the possibility of sexual assault on the girls even though the cause of death was cited as suffocation.
“Despite the fact that the post-mortem reports pointed out that the hymen of two of the three girls was missing, the police did not add any further section to the FIR, either from the IPC or from the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012),” added Chopra.
The families had made multiple visits to the Chamkaur Sahib Police Station, demanding a thorough investigation into the deaths, but to no avail.
Shoddy probe by Punjab Police, says families’ plea
The families then approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier this month, seeking a probe by an independent agency or the CBI into the death of the three girls.
“Inspite of the obvious references in the post-mortem reports to sexual assault, the police and the press have projected the unfortunate deaths as a result of mere accident. It is submitted here that this reflects the biased mindset of the police authorities and the preconceived notion by which the investigation in the case is being conducted. This has led to a shoddy probe by Punjab Police and thus, jeopardised the rights of the petitioners to have a fair investigation,” according to the families’ petition filed earlier this month.
In the petition, the families’ further contended that the police had not even bothered to send the viscera and vaginal swabs of the victims for forensic examination as had been suggested in the post-mortem reports.
“The delay is unexplained and could be an attempt to subvert the investigations and help the accused,” said Chopra.
When the matter was heard in the high court on 13 August, Justice B.S. Walia was told by the government that the samples of the victims had been sent to a chemical examiner, and the owner of the car had been arrested and investigations were still on.
The government has sought time to file its reply in the matter, which will next be heard on 18 September.