CBI may request court to remove agency’s criticism in Kuldeep Sengar judgement

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) logo at CBI HQ, New Delhi

CBI may request court to remove agency’s criticism in Kuldeep Sengar judgement

Unlike the Bilkis Bano case where the victim’s trust was won by the CBI team as it moved the high court seeking harsher punishment for the culprits and provided security to witnesses, in the Unnao rape case, the court said no such effort was made to make the girl comfortable.

CBI may request court to remove agency’s criticism in Kuldeep Sengar judgement
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) logo at CBI HQ, New Delhi

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Monday, while convicting expelled BJP legislator Kuldeep Singh Sengar in the Unnao rape case, came down heavily on the country’s premier probe agency for the delay and its approach in handling the sensitive case.

The dressing down from the court was almost an undoing of the praise CBI had received for convictions in sexual crimes like the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano during the Gujarat riots in 2002.

Unlike the Bilkis Bano case where the victim’s trust was won by the CBI team as it moved the high court seeking harsher punishment for the culprits and provided security to witnesses, in the Unnao rape case, the court said no such effort was made to make the girl comfortable.

While convicting Sengar, the court said the victim’s testimony was “truthful and unblemished” against a “powerful person”. The Uttar Pradesh legislator was convicted for rape under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. The woman was 17 years old when she was assaulted in 2017.

The court pulled up the agency for the delay in filing the chargesheet in the case against three people for the alleged gang-rape of the Unnao girl on June 11, 2017, after she was abducted. This incident happened a week after the girl was raped by Kuldeep Singh Sengar at his residence.

To be sure, this is a separate case from the rape complaint against Sengar.

“The CBI has not explained the fact that when the investigation in the alleged kidnapping, illegal confinement and gang rape of the victim girl ‘AS’ in FIR No 316/17 PS Makhi had been taken over by them on 13.04.2018 and it is also clear from the police report that almost entire investigation had been completed by the end of July 2018, what prevented the CBI from not filing the charge sheet/final report without any further delay and it was filed belatedly on 02.10.2019 after almost a year,” district judge Dharmesh Kumar said.

The court also slammed CBI for not deputing a female investigating officer in the case. It also pulled up the probe agency for calling the survivor to its office to record her statements and said it was not following the manual related to investigation and prosecution.

“… It appears that somewhere the investigation in the instant case has not been fair qua victim of crime and her family members. The investigation has not been conducted by a woman officer as mandated by Section 24 of the POCSO Act and successive statements of the victim girl ‘AS’ had been recorded by calling her at the CBI office without bothering for the kind of harassment, anguish and re-victimisation that occurs to a victim of sexual assault in such case,” Kumar said in his verdict.

The CBI officials HT spoke to, however, said there has been unwarranted criticism of the agency in the Unnao judgement as chargesheet against Kuldeep Singh Sengar in the main rape case was filed within the stipulated 90 days’ time.

A senior CBI official told HT that while the case was being probed by a male officer, the overall supervision was done by a female joint director including the recording of statement, collection of evidence etc.

The agency is likely to request the court on Tuesday to expunge the remarks about it in the judgement, an official said.

CBI’s former director, AP Singh, also said the agency should get these harsh remarks removed. “I am sure CBI will go to the high court to expunge these remarks and get their counter,” Singh said.

Former special director of CBI NR Wasan was, however, unequivocal in his critique of the agency.

“Going by the criticism of investigation done by CBI and alleged delay in filing the final report, CBI must look into the conduct of its officials investigating the case and supervising it and hold them accountable for the same,” Wasan said while speaking to HT.

CBI has worked hard to keep up with new-age crimes against women in recent months. Just last month, it set up a unit for taking up cases of online sexual abuse cases.

However, it seems the agency has a long way to go to make sure their officials are sensitive enough to deal with crimes against women.

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