The Chandigarh stalking incident allegedly involving Haryana BJP leader Subhash Barala's son, Vikas, is taking a grim turn with more details in the case emerging as public pressure and media scrutiny intensify.
Despite senior Barala assuring the press that Varnika Kundu, the woman his son and his friend are accused of stalking, is "like his daughter" and that "action is being taken in the case as per law", serious breaches of protocol in the way the police has handled the case are coming to light.
According to a Hindustan Times report, the two accused, Vikas, 23, and his friend Ashish Kumar, 27, refused to give blood and urine samples for the medical examination prior to the FIR being filed against them.
The medical examination report that was ultimately filed by the doctors was based on observation, stated, "Their breath smelled of alcohol and their eyes were red (congestion of the conjunctiva) and both denied to give blood and urine samples to testify the blood alcohol content."
Medical examination by force is permissible under section 53 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC), when the accused are arrested. Conclusive proof of drunkenness would have strengthened the case against the accused and helped the police to add sections of non-bailable offences to the FIR, reported HT. As it happens, the accused were released on bail within hours of the arrest.
Meanwhile, amid mounting criticism against the Chandigarh Police over their handling of the case, the media has been banned from the Sector 26 police station, which is handling the case, according to another Hindustan Times report. An armed constable has been posted at the gate to keep journalists and camerapersons out.
Top police officials have been deliberately avoiding the media's questions about the watered down nature of the charges being pressed against Barala and Kumar. Despite Kundu telling the SHO that the duo intended to abduct her, no charges of attempting kidnapping (a non-bailable offence) were filed.
Since Chandigarh is a union territory, its police reports to the BJP-controlled union home ministry.
Even as pressure builds on the police to add an attempt to kidnapping charged against the influential pair, the probe hit another roadblock, with sources claiming that incriminating evidence in the form of CCTV footage of too poor quality to be used as evidence in an attempted kidnapping charge, reported HT.
Incidentally, this is not the first time the Barala family is implicated in a case involving atrocities against women. There is an ongoing investigation against Subhash's nephew, Kuldeep Barala, over having allegedly pressurised a minor girl into changing her statement about her alleged kidnapping and rape by Kuldeep's relative in May this year, reported Times of India.
An FIR about the kidnapping was filed on 8 May, in which the girl accused Vikram Singh, a distant relative of Subhash Barala of abducting her in collusion with Kuldeep, his wife and the others.
In June, the girl filed a petition in Punjab and Haryana high court alleging that she had been pressurised into saying that she had gone with Vikram of her own volition because of some family problems.
The girl has also accused the police of not taking any action against the accused because of alleged pressure from Subhash Barala despite "sufficient oral as well as medical evidence" against them, in her petition.
On Tuesday, the high court asked the Haryana police to file a status report about the investigation of the girl's allegations by August 31.
The sordid tale came to light when Kundu, a DJ, in a Facebook post, detailed the ordeal of being chased by the while driving home late at night on Friday, 4 August. Even as she struggled to shake them off, and claimed that at one point one of the accused tried to forcefully enter her car, she managed to inform her parents and call the police for help.
While the police managed to nab the two promptly, on Monday they said that the CCTV cameras in the stretch of road where the alleged incident took place were not functional, sparking controversy and accusations of going soft on the accused due to political pressure. However, on Tuesday, 8 August, the Director General of Police confirmed that they had managed to procure footage that proved that Kundu was, in fact, being chased by the accused in a Tata Safari, like she claimed.