A SPECIAL court in Ahmednagar framed charges against three accused in the case of rape and murder of a 15-year old girl in Kopardi village. Jitendra alias Pappu Shinde, Santosh Bhaval and Nitin Bhailume have been charged with Sections 302 (murder), 376 (rape), 354 (sexual harassment),120B (criminal conspiracy), 34 (common intent) under the Indian Penal Code, along with sections under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
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The charge of criminal conspiracy was not included in the FIR or in the chargesheet filed last month. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, however, said the charge was added based on evidence of the role of Bhaval and Bhailume in the crime, which had revealed that they were part of the rape-murder conspiracy. In the chargesheet filed by the Ahmednagar police last month, accessed by The Indian Express, the police have stated the role of the two under Sections 16 and 17 of the POCSO Act, alleging abetment of the offence.
The police stated that the two had, prior to the incident, “from time to time”, “encouraged” Shinde to commit the offence. The chargesheet has eyewitness accounts which claim to have seen Bhaval and Bhailume, along with the accused Shinde, riding pillion on his motorcycle in the area before the incident. Nikam said the charge of conspiracy was added as evidence states that the two men were patrolling in the area when the incident was taking place.
According to police, a few days before the rape and murder, Shinde had approached the girl while she was returning from school. Shinde, 25, had allegedly grabbed her hand but the girl had managed to escape. The investigation found that Shinde had made lewd comments at the girl and the other two had laughed. Other evidence according to the police against the two is that they ensured that Shinde’s motorcycle was parked in such a way that it was not seen near the spot where the sexual assault was taking place.
The motorcycle was spotted by some of the relatives and neighbours of the minor after she was found in an unconscious state. A day later, it was torched by an angry mob of villagers.
Apart from this, the medical reports and witness accounts do not point to the presence of the other two accused when the girl was allegedly raped and murdered by Shinde. The protests triggered by the Maratha community against the sexual assault of the minor referred to the incident as a case of gang rape.
The FIR filed in the case at Karjat police station in Ahmednagar district on July 13 named only Shinde as an accused, as he was allegedly seen near the minor’s body after the assault.
As per the police, after Shinde harassed her on the street, the girl was scared and did not attend school on July 12 and 13. On being asked by one of her relatives, who is a witness in the case, the girl revealed that she had been harassed.
On the evening of July 13, the girl went to the house of her grandfather in the same neighbourhood to bring eggs and masala in preparation of dinner. When the girl did not return after a long time, her mother and sister began looking for her.
They also informed a few others in the neighbourhood, who joined the search. One of the witnesses states that he saw the girl’s bicycle nearby and began looking for her near the shrubs in the area.
According to the chargesheet, as it was dark, he was using a torch. He says that in the torchlight he saw a man, whom he later identified as Shinde, and also saw the girl lying on the ground. Witnesses said that they ran after Shinde but he managed to escape.
Meanwhile, the girl was found unconscious with injuries on her chest, neck, lips, back and private parts. She was rushed to a government hospital where she was declared dead on arrival.