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THE 16-year-old girl booked for the murder of 15-year-old Dalit boy Swapnil Sonawane in Navi Mumbai last month was released on bail last week. She had been in custody at the Children’s Observation Home in Bhiwandi.
She was released Thursday and is being looked after by her uncle’s family. Her parents and brothers remain in judicial custody.
Sonawane was allegedly beaten to death by the girl’s relatives and their friends on July 19. The girl’s family belongs to the Agri community. Her family reportedly did not approve of her relationship with a Dalit boy.
Officials at the Bhiwandi home said the juvenile magistrate passed the bail order primarily to ensure the girl’s education was not interrupted. A bright student, the girl had secured 85 per cent marks in SSC not long before the incident.
“Counsellors who spoke to the child recommended that the girl be allowed to continue her studies. We have also informed her paternal uncle’s family that she should be enrolled in a junior college and her further studies should not be affected,” said an official.
Under law, children in juvenile custody are not allowed to leave the premises.
The official said a counselllor met the girl’s mother, still in judicial custody, at the Kalyan women’s prison earlier this month. “Her mother recommended that the girl would be safe with her brother-in-law’s family. We conducted a house visit and ensured that none of the members had any connection with the death of the 15-year-old Dalit boy. The family has a good relationship with the girl and it will be a stable environment for her,” said the official.
Apart from granting bail, the official added that the magistrate had also issued supervision orders. “We will conduct regular visits till proper rehabilitation is done and the final order given in the case. The girl has been handed over to her father’s elder brother, who has agreed to take care of her. We separately questioned the girl as well and she too said she wanted to live with them,” he said.
As per protocol, the girl will have to be mandatorily present at all subsequent hearings. The next hearing will be scheduled only after the police file the chargesheet.
A senior police officer said, “We want the judicial custody of the seven accused to be extended. We are preparing the chargesheet and it should be complete in the coming fortnight.”
Apart from the girl’s father, mother, two brothers and their friends were arrested. The boy’s family has alleged the 16-year-old girl too was responsible for the boy’s death. The Nerul police had, thus, placed her in juvenile custody at the Bhiwandi home on July 20.