Rajnish Sharma and Atul Krishan, Asian Age Correspondents
New Delhi, 22 April 2013. Facing severe criticism for its tardy investigations into the gruesome gangrape of a five-year-old girl, the Delhi police seems have initiated a major coverup exercise for its lapses. While the district police claimed it had started its investigations immediately, Delhi police sources admitted the local police failed to react in the first 48 hours after the girl went missing.
It was only after two days, on April 17, the sources added, that a police constable visited the family seeking details of the girl, including her photograph.
The Delhi police on Sunday launched a massive hunt for a second suspect in the case. Key suspect Manoj Kumar had “during questioning given us some details of this second suspect named Pradeep… We are looking into this angle, and have launched a hunt to trace him,” a police official said. Earlier Sunday the police had denied “rumours” that it had arrested a second suspect or that it was “looking” for him.
Sources said Manoj Kumar had referred to a second person’s role during questioning by both the Delhi police and the Bihar police. A senior official said a probe was on to determine if this second person was involved in the rape or in helping Kumar flee Delhi on April 15 soon after the rape.
Sources said information on the Delhi police lapses also reached the Union home ministry, which then directed the city police to submit a detailed report in the next 24 hours. The Delhi police has been specifically asked to clarify the delay in filing the FIR and its initial investigations.
The Delhi police has so far claimed it lodged the FIR immediately, something the home ministry is not willing to accept. The girl went missing on April 14, while the FIR was lodged the next day.
“Had the Delhi police reacted swiftly, the girl would have been found immediately considering the fact that the accused happened to be a neighbour living in the immediate vicinity. In fact, the accused was living a floor below the victim’s house. Still the child remained missing for almost four days. There are serious lapses on the part of the local police,” a senior MHA official said.
Highly-placed sources said home minister Sushilkumar Shinde was “extremely upset” with the functioning of the city police top brass in wake of recent incidents. There is a growing view in the ministry that stringent disciplinary action should be taken this time against senior police officials to send out a strong signal.
Sources said action was contemplated against the Delhi police commissioner, joint commissioner (southeast range) and DCP (east district). But with police commissioner Neeraj Kumar due to retire in about two months, there is a view in the MHA that he be allowed to continue.
The government had in the aftermath of the December 16 gangrape incident amended Section 166 of the Indian Penal Code making it more stringent on dealing with officers disobeying the law. Sources said action could be taken against erring police officers under this provision.
Investigations have also found that the accused, Manoj Kumar, was involved in at least two other rape incidents. He had raped his wife as well, after which he was forced by the village panchayat to marry her.
Manoj, the police said, was also one of the prime suspect in the rape and murder of his sister-in-law. The police has not ruled out the possibility of Manoj being a serial rapist, saying a complete psychoanalysis profile of the accused will be done soon.
“From Manoj’s questioning, it is clear he has an extremely perverted mindset. We recovered some pornographic clippings from Manoj’s mobile phone and he claimed he wanted to perform all the sexual acts in the clippings with the child,” a police official remarked.
Manoj was produced before a duty magistrate on Sunday and agreed for a test identification parade. He was later remanded to judicial custody till May 4. Meanwhile, widespread protests continued across Delhi on Sunday, and members of the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party held demonstrations at police headquarters and outside the residences of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Some protesters also gathered at AIIMS, where the girl is being treated, and near India Gate.
Traffic was disrupted at ITO and India Gate in the evening as the number of protesters swelled. But while the protesters were in small groups, unlike the thousands who swamped India Gate and Rajpath in December last year following the rape of a 23-year-old in a moving bus, their anger on Sunday was palpable.