Shimla rape-murder: SIT members held after custody death

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday arrested Inspector General of Police (IGP) Zahoor H Zaidi, Deputy Superintendent of Police Manoj Joshi and six other police personnel in connection with the death in custody of an accused in the Shimla gangrape and murder case.

The others arrested were Rajinder Singh, Assistant Sub Inspector SI Deep Chand Sharma, who was then the Kotkhai's Station House Officer, ASI Deep Chand Sharma, Head Constables Surat Singh, Mohan Lal, and Rafiq Ali and constable Ranjit Singh.

All of them were on a Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up to probe the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in in the Himachal Pradesh capital in July.

Zaidi was removed by the state government as the SIT chief on 19 July and action taken against other cops on allegations of spoiling the evidence and botching up the probe in the case.

"The arrested accused were produced today (Tuesday) in the competent court in Shimla and were remanded in police custody till 4 September," a CBI spokesperson said.

The agency had registered two First Information Reports on 6 and 19 July and on the directions of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

The death of accused Suraj Singh, a Nepalese national, in police custody had raised suspicion on the role of the police in the case of rape and killing of a schoolgirl in Shimla.

The 16-year-old girl had gone missing in the Kotkhai area after school hours on 4 July and her body was found in the nearby Haliala forest on 6 July.

Those arrested are prime accused Rajinder Singh, who offered her the lift, Ashish Chauhan, Subhash Bisht, Deepak Kumar, Suraj Singh and Lokjan.

The autopsy report mentioned injuries on the girl's body.

However, a new twist in the case came after Rajinder Singh allegedly murdered fellow accused Surat Singh in the police lock-up in Shimla on 19 July.

According to The Indian Express, highly placed CBI sources said the forensic evidence, post-mortem report and statement of the night guard at the Kotkhai police station contradicted the police claim that Suraj Singh was killed in a scuffle in his cell.

The night guard, Constable Dinesh Kumar, 23, is now the CBI's key witness and has been provided police protection.

Sources said that Dinesh Kumar, in his statement to the CBI, said that Suraj Singh was not in his cell at the time of his death. He had reportedly been taken for interrogation, and was brought back in a critical condition. ''He was taken to the local government hospital at around midnight, where he was declared dead,'' said a police officer who did not want to be named.

Following the gang rape of the girl, people held massive protests in Himachal Pradesh. The family of the victim alleged that the "real culprits", who belong to high-profile families, have gotten away "scot-free".

Later, on the plea of the state government the state high court recommended a CBI probe into the case.