‘Ample suspicion but…’: Judge acquits Chhattisgarh cops of teen girl’s murder in fake encounter

Meena Khalkho, a 16-year-old tribal girl was killed on July 6, 2011, in Balrampur district of Chhattisgarh. A judicial commission in 2015, which rejected the police’s encounter claim, said she died by a police bullet and injuries on her body suggested “forced sexual intercourse”.
The Chhattisgarh police in 2011 claimed that Meena Khalkho was a Maoist and was killed in retaliatory firing after a police party from Chando police station was attacked. A 2015 judicial commission probe rebutted this version. (AFP File Photo)
The Chhattisgarh police in 2011 claimed that Meena Khalkho was a Maoist and was killed in retaliatory firing after a police party from Chando police station was attacked. A 2015 judicial commission probe rebutted this version. (AFP File Photo)
Published on May 17, 2022 11:08 PM IST
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RAIPUR: Two Chhattisgarh police personnel accused of killing a tribal girl Meena Khalkho in an alleged fake encounter in 2011 have been acquitted by a Raipur court, which said it was giving the accused the benefit of the doubt and that the case hadn’t been investigated properly by the police.

“Despite there being ample suspicion of the commission of the offence by the accused, the court could not convict the accused solely on the account of improper investigation resulting in deficiency of evidence, which was necessary to convict the accused,” sessions judge Shobna Koshta said in her April 5 judgment.

Meena Khalkho, a 16-year-old tribal girl was killed in police firing on July 6, 2011, near Karcha village in Balrampur district, which was a part of Surguja district till 2012.

The Chhattisgarh police had then claimed that Meena was a Maoist and was killed in retaliatory firing after a police party from Chando police station was attacked.

The teenager’s family, however, rebutted the police, insisting that there was no gunfight in the area on the day. Meena’s father Budheshwar Khalkho had alleged his daughter had gone to meet a friend when she was probably picked up by the police, gang-raped and murdered. According to the family, they were told the following day that she was accidentally hit by a police bullet and succumbed to injuries. Later, she was branded a Maoist.

The then chief minister Raman Singh set up a one-member inquiry commission headed by retired sessions judge Anita Jha in 2011 and gave it three months to submit its report.

The commission finally submitted its report in 2015. The 45-page report tabled in the state assembly rejected the police version that she was a Maoist or, that she was “habituated to sex” and held that she was “killed by a police bullet”, and the injuries on her body suggested “forced sexual intercourse with her”.

“The police encounter story is not acceptable. The police department or any other source had not produced before the commission any information or evidence that can establish that Meena Khalkho was a Maoist or she supported the rebels”, the 2015 Anita Jha commission report said.

The commission recommended that the government order another investigation, following which the state’s Crime Investigation Department lodged a fresh case under sections 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention) of IPC into the case. Three constables, Nikodin Khes, Dharmdutt Dhaniya and Jeevan Lal Ratnakar, were charged with murder. Nikodin Khes died during the trial.

The court in its order also pointed out that the prosecution failed to comply with the report of the judicial commission.

“The witnesses presented by the prosecution pointed out that the offence had taken place however none of them could pinpoint who among the accused was indulged in the firing in which Khako died,” the court said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    State Correspondent for Chhattisgarh. Reports Maoism, Politics, Mining and important developments from the state. Covered all sorts of extremism in Central India. Reported from Madhya Pradesh for eight years.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2022