Claiming its first big breakthrough in the July 2017 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in Kotkhai, that had led to massive protests, the CBI on Saturday said they had arrested a local youth with a criminal record. While declining to name the suspect, the CBI spokesman said that he was “not among those arrested by the police SIT” in the case. “We will disclose his identity in the next status report to be filed in the hon’ble court (the Himachal Pradesh High Court) next week,” the spokesman said.
The arrest of the youth, who has been taken to Delhi for questioning, came a week after the High Court, which has been monitoring the case, warned the CBI to show tangible progress or it would summon its director. The CBI has been camping in Shimla since July 22 last year for the probe. The victim was on her way back home from school on July 4, 2017, when she went missing. Two days later, her body was found abandoned in the forest. The postmortem had confirmed she was raped and murdered.
The investigation had been handed over to the central agency by the court in suo motu action after large-scale protests and violence over the rape and murder, followed by the death of one of the suspects, Suraj Singh, a Nepali national, in custody. The SIT had arrested five other persons apart from Suraj Singh. All five, including Ashish Chauhan (29), Rajender Singh alias Raju (32), Subash Singh Bisht (42), Lokjan alias Chottu (19), and Deepak alias Deepu (38), are now out on bail.
After it took over the probe, the CBI had arrested nine policemen, including IGP-rank officer Zahur Zaidi, who was heading the SIT in the case, former SP (Shimla) D W Negi and DSP (Theog) Manoj Joshi, for the custodial death. It has submitted a chargesheet against them.
The CBI team, which had initially asked for three months to complete the probe, has so far submitted nine interim reports to the High Court. Pulled up by the court for not making any breakthroughs, it had said the case was proving difficult as evidence was destroyed.
The accused was presented before the court on Saturday and CBI has taken his remand till April 25.