Assam to reopen past year’s cases of unnatural deaths involving domestic helps: Himanta
Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Friday that the decision was taken at a conference of senior police officers after the investigation into the death of a 13-year-old girl in June
Following the recent arrests of three police officers, three doctors and a magistrate accused of shielding a man who allegedly raped and murdered a minor, the Assam government has decided to reopen all cases of unnatural deaths involving domestic help over the past year.
Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Friday that the decision was taken at a conference of senior police officers after the investigation into the death of a 13-year-old girl in June revealed how senior police officers, government doctors and a magistrate colluded to project a rape and murder as suicide.
“In Assam, there have been cases of alleged sexual assault and murder of domestic helps in the past. We will try and take all such cases to a logical end. We have asked all district police chiefs to reopen and re-examine all such cases that took place in the past year,” the CM said at a press conference in Guwahati.
Sarma said that henceforth, if any such incident takes place, the district superintendent of police and the deputy inspector general of the area would personally visit the scene of crime and the cases will not be closed till they are satisfied with the investigation.
In the case in question, a 13-year-old girl who was working as a domestic help in the house of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) jawan Krishna Kamal Baruah allegedly died by suicide on June 11 at Dhula in Darrang district. Police lodged a case of unnatural death and started a probe.
Following a post-mortem report by doctors and an inquest by a magistrate, police concluded that it was a case of suicide and the body was buried. The family members of the girl, however, alleged that she had been murdered and lodged a separate case.
The case took a new turn in August when CM Sarma received a message on WhatsApp alleging foul play in the case. He visited the victim’s family on August 11 and ordered the case to be examined by the criminal investigation department (CID) of Assam Police.
“The present case showed that sometimes, post-mortem and inquests are conducted in a manner to help the accused. I want to send a strong message to the police, doctors and magistrates to do their duties diligently, especially in such cases where there’s such a grey area,” said Sarma.
The CM said that the state government would bring required amendments to laws or prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be followed by police and other authorities while handling cases of sexual assault or murder of minors working as domestic help.
“I receive over 1,000 messages every day. It was pure coincidence that I happened to check this particular message which I received at 2.30am and decided to visit the victim’s family the next day. Because evidence was sabotaged, the case was handed to CID,” said the CM.
“Evidence showed that right from the officer-in-charge of the local police station to the additional superintendent of police to the superintendent of police, doctors and a magistrate were all complicit (in covering up the crime). Now, it is for the courts to decide whether the accused are guilty or not,” he added.
Refuting allegations that the present case had dented the image of police, Sarma said that the arrests of the senior police officers, doctors and a magistrate shows that the police won’t spare even their own if they are guilty.
Besides Baruah who was arrested on June 30, police recently arrested former Darrang superintendent of police Raj Mohan Ray, additional SP Rupan Phukan and sub-inspector Utpal Borah for allegedly portraying the rape and murder as suicide after taking a sum of ₹5 lakh from Baruah’s family.
A case under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 218 (trying to shield an accused) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and two sections of Prevention of Corruption Act was lodged against them.
The three government doctors of Mangaldoi civil hospital — Ajanta Bordoloi, Anupam Sharma and Arun Deka — who conducted the post-mortem of the victim and termed it as a case of suicide by hanging at the behest of SI Borah were also arrested last week.
On Friday, the CID arrested Ashirvad Hazarika, a local magistrate who conducted an inquest on the victim’s body and concluded that her death was due to hanging by the neck. All the accused are in custody currently.
The present case was rare for the police as they had to re-verify the post-mortem report and inquest and also had to exhume the victim’s body to conduct fresh forensic tests, DNA analysis and a second post-mortem.
“Both, the first post-mortem and inquest, concluded death to be due to suicide and mentioned there was no sexual assault despite the first forensic report showing presence of semen on undergarments of the victim,” said ADGP (CID) AYV Krishna.
After the CID took over the case, fresh investigation revealed that no one apart from the main accused saw the girl hanging and her dead body was brought down by him before the police were informed.
“It was only after the body was exhumed with permission of the court and family members and fresh tests done by a panel of experts, that it was revealed that the wound in her neck was due to strangulation, there were injury marks on her skull and DNA tests revealed that the semen found on her undergarments was of the main accused,” said Krishna.