Facing criticism over the investigation into the alleged stalking of an IAS officer’s daughter in Chandigarh by Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala’s son Vikas Barala and his friend last weekend, DGP Tejinder Singh Luthra told The Indian Express that police have obtained CCTV footage which shows the “victim was being chased by the accused”. “We have procured footage establishing that the victim was being chased by accused in a Tata Safari. I cannot divulge the source of footage… these are either the police’s CCTV cameras or those privately installed,” said Luthra.
The DGP’s disclosure came after the administration admitted that the cameras it installed on the stretch where the alleged stalking took place on the night of August 4 could not be retrieved because the cameras were “non-functional” since August 1. Asked about the CCTVs, Chief Engineer Mukesh Anand said, “Out of 93 CCTV cameras in the city, 23 are non-functional. I have been told that due to some digging work, a power supply wire got disconnected, leaving 23 cameras non-functional.” Asked if these “non-functional” cameras included those on the stretch where the victim was allegedly stalked, he said, “Yes, I have been told that it includes that stretch.” SSP (Traffic) Shashank Anand said. “Only 42 cameras were in working condition. We communicated this to the engineering department, and got a reply that they had some issues over payment to the company, which does the annual maintenance work.”
When contacted, a senior official of Schneider Electric India Pvt Ltd, the Mumbai-based firm in charge of maintaining the CCTVs, said there were “payment issues” but added that the company had no information about any disconnected wire.
“Some months ago, the UT’s engineering wing had given us general information that due to accidents, there were damages at certain areas making cameras non-functional but no such specific information relating to ‘wire disconnecting’ has reached us, lately. We do have our payment issues as the UT has not paid us last year’s AMC fee which was about Rs 20 lakh,” said Abhijeet Swami, general manager (city surveillance project), Schneider Electric.
Chandigarh Police had earlier faced flak for not invoking the charges of bid to kidnap — a non-bailable offence — in the FIR, despite 29-year-old Varnika Kundu stating in her complaint that there was allegedly an attempt to kidnap her by Vikas Barala and his friend Ashish Kumar. The charges in the FIR — Section 354(d) on stalking and Section 341 on wrongful restraint — are both bailable. Both the accused were arrested and released on bail within a few hours on August 5, when the case was registered. On Monday, SSP Eish Singhal confirmed that police were yet to include charges related to “bid to kidnap” in the FIR.