Is Chandigarh Police letting Haryana BJP chief's 'stalker' son get away?
The Chandigarh Police is sticking to its guns in the Varnika Kundu stalking case.
It has been facing a backlash for allegedly diluting the charges against the main accused, Vikas Barala, son of Haryana BJP president Subhash Barala, and his friend Ashish Kumar, which allowed them to get bail despite allegedly stalking the daughter of a senior IAS officer posted with the Haryana government.
Despite digging itself into a hole, the police insists that non-bailable sections pertaining to attempted kidnapping and molestation will only be applied if legal opinion is in favour of it.
But human rights activists have questioned what's stopping the police from imposing these non-bailable sections at the moment. After all, there is still a lot of time to present the final charges before the courts.
They say this is the result of nothing but political pressure, and that the onus is on the police to save its reputation of being a free and independent investigating authority.
Opposition parties in Haryana, meanwhile, are gunning for Barala's resignation, which has reportedly been ruled out by the BJP.
On Monday evening, Chandigarh Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Eish Singhal held a briefing, where he said that the police is investigating the case with an 'open mind'. He has asked the media to not hold a 'media trial' in the matter.
He claimed that the police has recreated the scene of crime to investigate the case further. He said it is trying to obtain CCTV footage pertaining to the case, and it would be analysed technically to draw conclusions.
“We are investigating the case with an open mind. If any section has to be added at a later stage, we will do it,” he said, while denying that there has been any political pressure to shield the accused. The police claims it has gone by what Varnika said in her complaint.
The Kundus' response
Varnika, while praising the police for its 'timely intervention' and arresting the accused, reportedly said that the section pertaining to the 'attempt to kidnap' was not applied, despite her having mentioned it in her complaint.
Meanwhile, her father, Virender Kundu, came out with another Facebook post on Monday, saying: “WE SHALL NOT, EVER, BACK OUT OR STAND DOWN, irrespective of hardships or pressures.”
He stated that his daughter and he would not interfere with the investigation or the prosecution, just as they would not want the accused to influence the investigation in any way. “We will join investigation whenever required by the police. We will contest in the court if we feel the charges are diluted or inadequately framed,” he has underlined.
His post further read: “Our target is to ensure that the guilty are brought to book. They are adult men, students of law, who are fully aware of the consequences of their actions, and hence must be appropriately punished. We want them to be punished for the offences they have actually committed, and awarded punishment commensurate with their culpability. Not over punished, but definitely not under punished either.”
Saying it was unfortunate that the families of the accused had to face hardships, he said they would not hold the families of these men responsible for their crimes.
He underlined: “We firmly believe that after 70 years of independence and democracy, the legal system of our country is mature and geared up to deliver justice. Dispensation of justice should not require anything from the complainant except that she speak the truth at all times, and does not back out. We promise that. The protection and prevention system of Chandigarh Police works, and Varnika is alive and safe today as a proof of its working. We expect the judicial system to work just as well.”
Kundu has said that in a cut and dried case like this, where there is nothing hazy or unclear in terms of actions or identities, if the system fails to deliver justice, 'then there is something deeply rotten in our society, our government and our country. Then we all need to look into ourselves, question our honesty as well as patriotism, and see where we have led our country to'.
He has ended his post saying, “In my mind, the issue is not of Varnika being assaulted or two specific criminals to be punished. The issue is, does our country allow a woman to live as a free and equal citizen, and if she is wronged, does it give her enough confidence to even claim justice? If not, we are no better than a lawless, barbaric society.”
Activists raise doubts
Human rights activist and lawyer Ranjan Lakhanpal said the police's 'no pressure' claims didn't add up.
“It is nothing but plain pressure at work. Today, they say that they are not opposed to adding the charges. What is stopping them? They can add the charges and re-arrest the accused. The question is that why did they drop these charges in the first place? And why don't they make it out now? Prima facie, it is a clear case of attempt to kidnap and molestation,” he said.
Another senior lawyer and human rights activist, RS Bains, pointed out that the intent of the accused was clear right from the beginning. “Right from the intent to kidnapping, harassment, wrongful restraint, molestation to even rape, it was all there. In fact, short of firing, every thing was there. The only thing is that their attempt failed. Why would youths stalk the woman in the middle of the night? And on top of that, they were drunk. This makes it very clear. It is because of elements like these that people do not allow their children to venture out late at night,” Bains told Catch.
He further said: “They can impose any number of charges at this point of time, and investigate the matter. The final charges are framed much later, when they are to be presented before the court. They ought to apply these charges if they want to save their reputation as an independent investigating agency.”
Responding to the police's plea to not hold a 'media trial', Bains said had it not been for the media raising the issue, there was every possibility of the case being brushed under the carpet.