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Chandigarh Police officers on Saturday claimed that the statement by a Haryana cadre IAS officer’s daughter “did not attract charge of kidnapping bid” to be included in the FIR. The 29-year-old woman was allegedly stalked for nearly seven kilometres for 30 minutes around midnight on August 4 by Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala and his friend Ashish Kumar. However, the FIR registered at the Sector 26 police station contradicts the police officers’ claims.
In her complaint to police, which subsequently formed the subject matter of the FIR, the woman specifically said that an attempt was made to kidnap her. “To the SHO, Police Station Sector 26, Chandigarh. Subject — Complaint regarding harassment and attempt to kidnap and outrage the modesty of a girl”, reads the FIR.
While detailing the sequence of events, she said, “To me, it was very clear that these boys intended to abduct me even tried to open the door. Kindly file an FIR under the appropriate sections of law.” However, Chandigarh Police did not include sections on attempt to kidnap — which is a stronger charge, and has serious legal repercussions — in the FIR. They instead put bailable charges — stalking and wrongful restraint — and released both accused on bail.
After the FIR’s contents came to the fore, Deputy Superintendent of Police (East) Satish Kumar reiterated his Saturday statement. “We are taking legal opinion in the matter. The vehicle of the accused is yet impounded,” he said. “My hands shaking, my back spasming from fear, half in tears, half bewildered, because I didn’t know if I’d make it home tonight…,” is how the complainant described her harrowing experience.
Senior Advocate Rajwinder Singh Bains described the bailable charges in the FIR as the “police’s failure”, and said instead of beginning with the strongest action, they had chosen to take the weakest action, and allowed the accused to walk out on bail. “The intention here is to be seen, and going by the woman’s account it was absolutely to kidnap her, molest her or even rape her. If you chase a woman’s car for seven kilometres, block her way repeatedly, try to forcibly open the doors of her car in the middle of the night, what is the inference to be made out?” Bains said. “It is a different matter that they could not succeed in their intentions, but all the circumstances are against the accused.”
Several legal experts agreed that given the serious allegations against the accused, charging them under Sections 354D (stalking) and 341 IPC (wrongful restraint), and Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act was not enough. “The saying in our society is if you are not getting raped, it is merely by chance. It takes courage for a girl to open up in such cases. Looking at the allegations on the face of it, the police could have gone stricter while registering the case because one cannot rule out attempts of the accused in this particular incident,” Chandigarh-based criminal lawyer IPS Kohli said.
Criminal law experts said police should have looked into the intentions behind the act, and since the woman has said she was “almost kidnapped” during the chase, they could have booked the accused at least under the attempt to kidnap Sections (365 and 511) of the IPC. “The allegations are grave but the FIR is only the beginning, and the police can include other sections later. One should have some confidence in the investigating agency, but the case has to be probed dispassionately, without fear, and with utmost sensitivity,” said advocate Vikram Rathore, offering a somewhat different perspective.
Senior Advocate Anupam Gupta said it was an “extreme case of stalking”, and police must fast-track investigations, and frame charges within a week for a speedy trial. He said that stalking ought to be a non-bailable offence. “I am surprised the 354D, which was created after the Delhi gangrape episode, was not made non-bailable,” Gupta said.