All the five accused in the gang rape of a photojournalist in a secluded area of a defunct mill have been arrested by police with the remaining two suspects on the run being held on Sunday three days after the crime which will be tried in a fast track court.
The Maharashtra Government announced appointment of noted lawyer Ujjwal Nikam as the special public prosecutor in the case that has triggered outrage across the country even as Mumbai police intesified the hunt to trace the mobile phone used to shoot pictures of the brutal attack.
Mohammed Kasim Hafiz Shaikh alias Kasim Bengali, 21, a resident of Agripada in central Mumbai and one of the accused, was arrested at 4.15 am today from Mumbai Central while his accomplice Siraj Rehman Khan, 24, was arrested last night.
Both were remanded in police custody till August 30.
Another accused Salim Ansari, 27, was arrested from Delhi by Mumbai crime branch sleuths. He was arrested from Bharat Nagar in North-West Delhi, when he was on his way to a relative's house in the capital. He was taken to a hospital for medical test and later to Mumbai where he would be produced before a court tomorrow, police said.
Two others involved in the case, Vijay Jadhav and Chand Babu Sattar Shaikh, were arrested earlier. They were produced before the court which remanded them in police custody till August 30.
All the five accused have been booked under various sections of IPC such as 376(D) (rape), 342 (wrongful confinement), 506(2) (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention).
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said in Pune on Sunday evening that that the gang rape case would be tried in a fast track court to ensure speedy justice to the victim. Chavan also said he had asked Nikam to appear as public prosecutor in the case.
Nikam confirmed the development saying that Chavan and Home Minister R R Patil had called him up to inform about his appointment as the prosecutor. "I have given my consent," he told PTI.
The 23-year-old victim, working as an intern with an English Magazine, was gang raped in the premises of the defunct Shakti Mills Compound where she had gone along with a male colleague on an assignment to shoot pictures on August 22.
Jaslok hospital's acting CEO Dr Tarang Gianchandani, meanwhile, in a statement, said, "The victim's condition is steadily improving from all aspects. She is eating normally and her medical parameters are in control. Team of experts specially assigned to this patient is continuously monitoring her."
"A team of Mumbai Crime Branch today reached Bharat Nagar police station and enquired about a locality about which they had inputs that Ansari will be visiting. He was then nabbed when he was on his way to a relative's house here," said a senior Delhi police official.
The 23-year-old victim, working as an intern with an English Magazine, was gang raped in the premises of the defunct Shakti Mills Compound where she had gone along with a male colleague on an official assignment to shoot pictures on August 22.
The accused had tied up the victim's colleague at a little distance away from the scene of crime and gang raped the girl after threatening her with a piece of broken beer bottle, which they placed near her neck. They also shot pictures of the shameful act from a mobile phone and warned her against telling anyone or else they would circulate the pictures.
Seeking custody of the accused, police today told the court that they were trying to find out from the suspects where they had kept the mobile phone.
Police informed the court that the accused were not cooperating with the probe and were not disclosing where they had kept the mobile phone. However, police had picked up the broken piece of bottle from the place and said that it was a vital piece of evidence.
Meanwhile, in another statement, the victim's mother said, "My daughter and I are overwhelmed with the support given to us by police, media and public at large. We hope and pray for your continued support and campaign in the fight for justice for my daughter and women at large in India."
"Now that stringent laws are in place, we are optimistic that your and the government's efforts will help on putting the matter on the fast track so that the severest of punishment is meted out. This will ensure that even the most sick-minded think twice before they act in such an inhuman and insensitive way".
"I have one small request to all of you. Please continue to respect the privacy of my daughter and me," the statement said.
The victim had said in a message to the people on Saturday, "Rape is not the end of life. I want strictest punishment for all the accused and want to join duty as early as possible".
Kasim Bengali and Siraj Khan were produced today before a magistrate, who inquired whether they had any complaints against police and whether they had hired any lawyers to defend them. Both of them replied in the negative.
Kasim and Siraj were produced with their faces covered with a black cloth. Police told the court that identification parade had not been held so far.
In the remand application, police said Kasim, who was arrested, had admitted to his alleged role in the crime.
Image: Accused Kasim Bengali was produced before a magistrate on Sunday
Photograph: Sahil Salvi