A SPECIAL Investigation Team (SIT) Thursday arrested six persons, including the main suspect — a 32-year-old orchard manager — in connection with the rape and murder of a Class X schoolgirl. The girl’s body was found in Halaila forests of Mahasu in the apple-rich Kotkhai area, 56 km from Shimla, on July 6 — two days after she went missing on her way home after school. Earlier in the day, the police announced the arrest of Ashish Chauhan, 29, of Shaaral (Kotkhai) village, the son of a prominent orchard owner. He was arrested under sections 302, 376 and section 4 of POCSO Act and the FIR was registered at Kotkhai police station.
Later, the police also announced the arrests of five more persons — who were among those earlier picked up for questioning on the basis of clues provided by Ashish Chauhan and others.
Of those arrested, two persons are from Garhwal (Uttarakhand), two from Nepal and one local, Rajender Singh alias Raju, who hails from Janjeli area of Mandi and was living at Halaila village as orchard manager-and-drive of a prominent orchardist in Kotkhai. Himachal Pradesh DGP Sumesh Goyal told mediapersons that the police had “forensic, physical, technical and circumstantial prosecutable evidence” against all the arrested accused.
“The six persons are aged between 19 and 42 years,” said DGP Goyal.
The incident happened on July 4 when the victim was returning from school. She had to pass through a forest area (path) to reach her home and midway, Rajender Singh, 32, offered her a lift in a private carriage vehicle, which he was driving to carry some apple spray material to the orchard. The other four — Subash Singh Bisht (42), Surat Singh (29) Lokjan alias Chottu (19), Deepak alias Deepu (38) — were also in the vehicle. Bisht and Deepu hail from Garhwal (Uttarakhand) and Lokjan and Surat Singh are from Nepal. All of them are farm labourers working for orchard owners during the apple season. The DGP said, “Raju works as a manager in an orchard of a prominent apple grower.
Earlier, he had given lift to the girl on one or two occasions. After driving some distance, he stopped the vehicles and pulled her down. They dragged her to a nearby forest area, gagged her mouth and took turns to rape her. All were under the influence of alcohol,” said Goyal.
Flanked by Inspector General of Police Zahur Zaidi, who headed the SIT and camped at Kotkhai for the past three days and SP (Shimla ) D W Negi, the DGP claimed that the girl’s body was also dumped close to the site of the crime.
“The post-mortem report has established rape and murder. She died as she was smothered while being raped. Her body had injuries and signs of torture,” said Zaidi. He added that investigations in the case were still on.
Will not defend rape accused: district bar In a move to express solidarity with the victim’s family and justice, District Bar Association, Shimla, on Thursday decided that none of its members would fight the case on behalf of the rape accused.
A delegation of the association, which has around 1200 members, led by Prem Singh Negi, met Shimla Deputy Commissioner Rohan Chand Thakur and Superintendent of Police D W Negi on Thursday and demanded that the accused should be put behind bars without any delay in view of the gravity of the case and brutalities the accused had committed on the teenage girl.