Arrested, then tortured to admit to rape: Kothkai case

Arrested, then tortured to admit to rape: Kothkai case

Chilling, what can happen to you in a police station, if you just happen to be a ‘suspect’.

In 2017, in Himachal Pradesh, a minor girl was found raped and murdered. The police ‘swung into action’ and arrested 6 men with much fanfare. Things went south for these cops when one of the accused died in police custody.

A prosecution witness in the Kotkhai custodial death case Wednesday deposed before the special CBI court here that he was “forcibly made to drink whiskey and smoke cannabis” by the accused IG ZH Zaidi and tortured to confess to the minor girl’s rape and murder in Himachal Pradesh.

Ashish Chauhan (30) is one of the six accused, who were arrested by the police for minor’s rape and murder in 2017. After one of the accused, Suraj Singh, died in the custody of Kothkai police, all were made prosecution witnesses by the CBI in the custodial death case.

A resident of Shimla, Chauhan identified ZH Zaidi in the special CBI Court of ADJ Dr Sushil Kumar Garg.

Chauhan told the court that he was at his home down with fever on July 4, 2017, when around noon SHO Rajinder Singh and two other policemen came to his house and took him to Bankufer Rest House for interrogation in connection with a minor girl’s rape and murder. He claimed that the policemen told him that they would drop him at his house after half an hour. Then from Bankufer Rest House, Manoj Joshi – another accused in custodial death case – and two constable took him to Chaila police post in a vehicle. He was kept there till 1.30 am. Chauhan claimed that when his sister and cousin reached there looking for him, they were told that he wasn’t there.

“On July 11, they started torturing me. Zaidi gave me bottle of whiskey and forcibly made me drink it as a result of which, I started vomiting. He had also given me cannabis and forcibly asked me to smoke the same. Zaidi, Bhajan Dev Negi, Rattan Negi, PSO Sushil, and PSO Sunil of Manoj Joshi tortured. They asked me to confess the crime telling me that Ishan and Happy had already confessed to it. They had tied me with a rope to the door and started beating me with sticks on the back and back bone. The back bone cracked due to which I was not able to stand properly. They had also given me electric shocks. Thereafter, I got unconscious and I was laid on the bed. Constable Dinesh had given me water at night after I gained consciousness. Rajinder alias Raju, Subhash, Lokjan, Deepu, Suraj were also taken in custody by the police on July 11…,” Chauhan told the court.

He further submitted that on July 12, the accused again tortured him and in the night of July 13, at about midnight, they “took my signature on some papers and told me that FIR has been registered against me and had put me in lock up”. He claimed that he heard SHO Rajinder saying that “we should take some time but the higher official – Zaidi – insisted to put up me in the lock up”.

Chauhan’s police remand was taken from Theog Court on July 15, 2017 and later he was kept in the lock up at Kotkhai police station. On July 16, he was to be taken to a hospital in Shimla for his dental impression, but that could not be done due to an agitation. Chauhan stated that on his arrest memo, his signature was not taken on July 12 and the accused had got the same signed by him on July 14 and forcibly asked him to write the date as July 12.

Apart from Chauhan, Constable Ajay Kumar, senior assistant (HP Police) Amar Singh Verma, junior stenographer (HP Police) Pritam Chand, radiologist, Zonal Hospital (Shimla) Dr Ashwani Sood, and Assistant Director, Forensic Science Laboratory Dr HV Acharya also testified in the court today.

ROLE IN RAPE-MURDER NOT ESTABLISHED 

Prosecution witness Dr H V Acharya, assistant director, Forensic Science Laboratory, Gujrat, told the court that she had done polygraph BEOS tests and Narco test on five subjects––Ashish Chauhan, Rajinder Singh, Lokjan, Deepak and Subhash Singh––after their consent. The polygraph test was done by HR Shah.

Acharya and Shah prepared a comprehensive forensic psychological report comprising findings of three reports.

Apprising the court of the conclusion of the reports, the doctor stated that the role of the five subjects in the ‘Gudiya rape and murder’case was not observed in their polygraph, Narco and BEOS tests.

Also, the motive of rape and murder of the girl was not established and further, the role of Rajinder in killing Suraj during the police custody was also not observed in Narco and BEOS test.

It was concluded that ‘without any substantial evidence, the local police took harsh steps during interrogation against the five subjects.’

However, ‘the results of tests should be corroborated with the available evidence/witness for further investigation’ it mentioned.

Another prosecution witness Ashish Chauhan was examined. Chauhan is one of the six accused, who were arrested by the police in the ‘Gudiya rape-murder case’, but after one of the accused Suraj died in the police custody, all were made prosecution witnesses by the CBI in the ‘Kotkhai custodial death

case.’ He deposed before the court that on July 9, 2017, SHO Singh along with two others picked him from his house and took him to Bankufer Rest house for interrogation, thereafter accused Manoj Joshi along with two constables took him to Police post Chaila and kept him there till July 10, 2017.

The matter is now scheduled for hearing on October 24.

The nine accused in the case include Zaidi, SP DW Negi, DSP Theog Manoj Joshi, former Kotkhai SHO Rajinder Singh, ASI Deep Chand (who was investigating officer of the case), head constables Surat Singh, Mohan Lal and Rafee Mohammad, and constable Ranjit Steta. The case was transferred to the Chandigarh CBI Court by the Supreme Court. The minor girl had gone missing after school hours on July 4 from Haliala forest.

 Her naked body was found in the forest on July 6 and the post-mortem report confirmed rape.

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