Life in jail for woodcutter who raped, killed Shimla schoolgirl

A local court here on Wednesday sentenced a 28-year-old man to life imprisonment for raping and murdering a 16-year-old schoolgirl in a forest in Shimla’s Kotkhai area four years ago.

A local court here on Wednesday sentenced a 28-year-old man to life imprisonment for raping and murdering a 16-year-old schoolgirl in a forest in Shimla’s Kotkhai area four years ago. The court also imposed a penalty of Rs 10,000 on convict Anil Kumar alias Nilu, a woodcutter.

Special Judge Rajeev Bhardwaj pronounced the order in the presence of the convict.

Not satisfied with the verdict, Gudiya’s mother demanded reinvestigation into the case. She told PTI that the crime was not committed by a single man. The case should be reinvestigated and all culprits should be hanged, she demanded.

Claiming innocence, the convict told reporters outside the court that he would challenge the order in the High Court.

Meanwhile, Congress MLA Vikramaditya Singh and CPM legislator Rakesh Singha too raised questions over the CBI investigation, claiming that the real culprits are still roaming freely.

However, the CBI in a press release said the case was very challenging as there was not eyewitness and the crime took place in a dense forest with “least human encroachment”. The involvement of the accused in the crime was established through DNA profiling, along with other evidences, the CBI said.

The victim had gone missing while walking home from school on July 4, 2017, and was later found dead in a ditch in a forested area in Kotkhai. The heinous crime, later named as the Gudiya case to protect the victim’s identity, had triggered an outrage all over Himachal Pradesh.

The case saw dramatic twists, including the custodial death of a man earlier suspected of having committed the crime and the arrest of a senior police officer in this connection.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) then took charge of the case and arrested Anil Kumar three years ago.

Special Judge Bhardwaj had on April 28 held Anil guilty under Sections 376 (2)(i), 376 (A), and 302 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The judge said 12 of the 14 crucial points of evidence presented by the CBI went against the convict.

The most important of them was the matching of his DNA with samples found at the crime spot, he said. The judge had further said that there was absence of evidence against the six persons who were initially arrested by the state police in the case, and the presence of Anil Kumar near the crime spot had been proved by the CBI. It was also proved through the victim’s autopsy and examination of soil that the deceased had been killed at the same spot, he said.

The bite marks found on the vicitim’s body matched with those of Anil Kumar and witnesses had identified him through his photograph.

During hearing on April 28, the judge ruled that the crime was committed on the spur of the moment when Anil Kumar came across the girl as she walked home through the forested area.

Anil Kumar, who then attended the hearing from a prison in Shimla, pleaded innocence.

In a facebook post in Hindi, Congress MLA from Shimla (Rural) Vikramaditya Singh said his father and the then chief minister Virbhadra Singh had handed over the investigation to the CBI for providing justice to Gudiya but a poor woodcutter had been implicated in the case due to wrong investigation.

He said the Kotkhai police would have done better investigation than the CBI. The real culprits are still absconding while the poor woodcutter has been falsely implicated, he added.

Lone CPM MLA Rakesh Singha told reporters that the case should be reinvestigated. Even a layman knows that the crime was not committed by a single persons but by a gang and the culprits are roaming freely, he added.

The girl’s body was found in the forest two days after she went missing. A post-mortem report then indicated rape and murder.

Days later, the state police set up a special investigation team headed by Inspector General Z Zahur Zaidi. Police arrested six men on July 13. One of them, Suraj, died in police custody on July 19.

Amid public outrage, the Himachal Pradesh High Court handed over the case to the CBI, which arrested nine policemen including the IGP for the custodial death.

The proceedings against the five men arrested along with Suraj were dropped for lack of evidence. The custodial death case against the police officers was later transferred to Chandigarh, where it is currently being heard.

Anil Kumar was arrested on the basis of DNA evidence in April, 2018.

–With PTI

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