Updated: February 6, 2020 8:58:22 am
THE MUMBAI Police top brass has ordered a probe to determine if the Nehru Nagar police followed proper procedure while looking for 17-year-old Aarti Rithadiya from Kurla who went missing last March.
The police were left red-faced when it came to light that Aarti, who had gone missing on March 30, last year, had died after a train hit her the same day. Ten months later, the Mumbai Police Crime Branch last week managed to trace her remains to the mortuary of Sion hospital, where Aarti’s body was kept before she was cremated last April.
Both Nehru Nagar police as well as Wadala Government Railway Police (GRP), which had found the body, had failed to realise that the girl found dead on the tracks around March 30, last year, was actually Aarti.
“An ACP-rank officer has been asked to probe if standard operating procedure in cases of missing persons were followed in this case. Depending upon the probe report, the top brass will decide if any action is needed to be taken against officers at the Nehru Nagar police station that was investigating the case,” a senior IPS officer said.
Last October, Aarti’s father Pancharam Rithadiya had committed suicide assuming that his daughter had been kidnapped and the police were not in a position to trace her. Her family has alleged that had the police tracked her down earlier, it would have saved Pancharam’s life. His funeral was followed by riots, resulting in the arrest of 53 people, who are still in jail.
An officer from Nehru Nagar police said that after Aarti went missing, Pancharam had approached them saying that she had run away with a local resident, Bhagchand Fulwaria. “He told us that Fulwaria had called him to say that Aarti was safe. Later, when we questioned Fulwaria, we found that he had nothing to do with the girl going missing. However, since the father was convinced that Aarti had been taken away by those close to Fulwaria, we focussed on that line of investigation. Thrice we had sent teams to Fulwaria’s native place in Rajasthan to look for Aarti,” the officer added.
However, the officer conceded that while pursuing this line of investigation, they may not have probed the angle that the girl could have died. “Whenever any missing persons complaint is received, one is supposed to send her photograph and write to all police stations, including the railway police. No proper follow up was done towards this end.”
Wadala GRP claimed that it had uploaded Aarti’s photograph — in which her face was partially damaged — on the police network after finding her body. “We did not receive any enquiry from the Nehru Nagar police. Hence, there was no way to inform them,” said Rajendra Pal, senior inspector.
Eventually, after Aarti’s family approached the Bombay High Court, the case was transferred to unit VI of the Crime Branch. A team went to hospitals across the city to look for unidentified bodies found around Kurla on March 30, 2019. “While the girl had been cremated, the hospital had her photographs. We took the photographs to her family, who identified her,” a crime branch officer said.
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