Now that Aruna Shanbaug is dead, the Mumbai police are contemplating whether they can slap murder charges on the ward boy responsible for her ordeal — if they can find him, and if he is alive. The police Monday sent a team to the Mumbai sessions court to locate the original case papers.
Hospital sweeper Sohanlal B Walmiki served seven years for attempted murder and robbery. No mechanism is in place to track such offenders after release. After the December 2012 Delhi gangrape, the Centre announced it would create a database of repeat rape offenders and put it on the website of the National Crime Records Bureau but the project has since hit a legal hurdle.
The Bhoiwada police station registered the case in 1973 before the Crime Branch took it up and arrested Walmiki from Pune within a week. After his release, says retired assistant commissioner of police Keshav Sahasrabudhe who was part of the investigation team, Walmiki was summoned twice by Bhoiwada police. Other officers speculate he later fled to Delhi and worked at a private hospital, but that is unconfirmed, as are reports that he is dead.
“There are unconfirmed reports that Walmiki died of a sexually transmitted disease a couple of years ago,” an official with the Bhoiwada police station said.
“Since this case is over 40 years old, we hope the sessions court has maintained the records and shares the papers with us. If Sohanlal is alive, the papers will help us make a strong case of murder.”
Justice Markandey Katju, who along with Justice Gyan Sudha Misra had ruled on an appeal for mercy killing filed on behalf of Aruna, said it was not possible then (in 2011) for the Supreme Court to reopen the issue of “inadequacy” of the punishment to Walmiki. “
Walmiki had already served his sentence and a person cannot be punished twice for the same offence under the Constitution,” Justice Katju told The Indian Express from Vancouver. “Yes, I believe nothing less than life term could be meted out to Walimiki for his diabolical act but the Supreme Court could not have enhanced his punishment under the law.”