Congress accuses Centre of 'protecting' state BJP chief's son. BJP asks 'why are you silent on rape and murder of Himachal Pradesh teen'.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Anil Jain, in-charge of the party's Haryana affairs, on Monday ruled out the resignation of its state unit chief Subhash Barala following the arrest of the latter's son in a stalking case in Chandigarh.
'Subhash Barala has nothing to with the Vikas Barala case. The law is taking its own course. There is no reason for Subhash Barala's resignation,' Jain said in a statement in Chandigarh.
Jain's statement ruling out Barala's resignation comes a day after Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also said that the BJP state unit chief had 'nothing to do with incident'.
The opposition has been mounting pressure seeking Subhash Barala's resignation on the issue.
"Subhash Barala has nothing to do with this incident. It is an individual happening, the accused will face action once found guilty. This is my official stand, this was my stand yesterday and today also this is my stand. After this, on this issue, no question, no answer," Khattar had told reporters on Sunday.
Subhash Barala had earlier said that he respects the law and the 'truth' will come out through the judicial process.
The son of Haryana's ruling BJP chief was arrested along with his friend for allegedly stalking a woman in Chandigarh.
Both the accused, Vikas Barala, 23, and Ashish Kumar, 27, were released later on bail as they were booked under bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Motor Vehicles Act, amid a major outcry.
The incident came to light when the woman, around 28 years of age, called up the police on Friday night and complained that two youth were chasing her.
Meanwhile, Haryana Congress Chief Ashok Tanwar on Monday met the victim and her family at her residence here and assured her of support in fighting the case.
A protest march was also taken out in Chandigarh over the incident.
"We appreciate the brave girl for standing up to harassment by two men, one of them belonging to an influential family. The whole of Chandigarh stands by her side," said a citizen.
A Congress worker also accused the Chandigarh police of acting under pressure in the stalking case to protect the accused.
No pressure, we're proceeding with 'open mind': Police
The Chandigarh Police said it will not hesitate to add non-bailable provisions in the case if legal opinion is in its favour.
Senior Superintendent of Police Eish Singhal said they were investigating the matter with an 'open mind' and were taking legal opinion on several issues pertaining to the case.
He rejected the claims that the force was under any kind of pressure, noting that an first information report was immediately registered in the case and the accused promptly arrested.
"Chandigarh police is a professional investigating agency. We are conducting a fair investigations. There is no pressure on us of any kind," he said while replying to queries at a press conference on Monday evening.
To a question on why kidnapping charge had not been slapped against the accused, Singhal said, "We are proceeding in this case with an open mind and if any such section is to be added, we will definitely add it (in the FIR already registered in the case), but we are not working under any pressure."
"We are taking legal opinion in several things pertaining to the case. If legal opinion suggests, then we will certainly add the relevant section," Singhal said, replying to a volley of questions.
Opposition parties have accused the Chandigarh police of working under pressure and 'weakening' the case by not adding kidnapping charge against the two accused.
The woman in her complaint had mentioned that there was an attempt to kidnap her by the accused. 'To me it was very clear that that these boys intended to abduct me even tried to open the door,' the victim had said in her complaint.
Asked why legal opinion had not been sought so far, Singhal said, "We have been investigating this case for three days only".
"There are many things on which we are seeking legal opinion and let these be completed. Don't turn this case into a media trial," the SSP said.
Singhal said the police has reconstructed the scene of crime.
"We have identified several CCTV cameras on the route taken by the accused and we are in the process of taking footage and when their technical analysis is complete, we will let you know," he said.
"At present, we are thoroughly looking into all the facts of the case from various angles," he added.
On allegations that six CCTV cameras on the route were non-functional, he replied, "I can brief about this only when the technical analysis is complete."
"We are analysing every single camera on that road stretch. When technical analysis is complete, details will be put before you."
To another query, he said, "We are here to provide all sorts of help to the victim".
Barala's son Vikas and Ashish Kumar were earlier arrested for allegedly stalking the woman, daughter of a senior IAS office, in Chandigarh.
However, both the accused were released later on bail as they were booked under bailable sections of the IPC and the Motor Vehicles Act.
No political pressure on Chandigarh police: Kirron Kher
BJP MP Kirron Kher on Monday said Chandigarh police was not facing any political pressure in the incident and assured the victim and her family that justice would be done.
She lamented that certain 'wild allegations' like the one on CCTV footage going missing were being made and stressed that the law would take its course.
The woman's father, a senior Haryana IAS officer who had taken to the social media to urge people to fight crime against women, told reporters that he had full faith in the system and was grateful to Chandigarh police for 'saving' his daughter’s life.
He said he had requested the Home Department immediately after the FIR was lodged that care be taken to secure the CCTV footage.
He also said that 'unless somebody from the family (of the accused) is trying to sabotage the investigations and the prosecution, they are not involved in this, we are very clear. We do not hold the family responsible in any way'.
His response came as the opposition stepped up demand for resignation of Subhash Barala and criticised the Chandigarh police for not charging his son with kidnapping in the incident.
Kher, the MP from Chandigarh, on Monday rubbished claims that the accused were booked under lenient provisions as one of them is related to the state BJP leader.
"The police are under no political pressure, this is absolutely baseless. The Chandigarh police are doing their job as any professional force does," she said
"During police investigation if something else comes up, I am sure police will follow through," Kher said.
The MP said that security will be further strengthened in the city so that such incidents are not repeated.
Asked about reported allegations that CCTV footage was missing, Kher said, "These people who are saying about footage going missing are making wild allegations.
"The police have assured the victim and her family that wherever CCTV cameras are installed and any footage that the cameras would have captured is going to be kept secure."
Assuring the victim and her family that justice would be done, Kher said, "As a mother, I can understand the sentiments of the victim's family at this time. Whatever is legal and correct in this case, will be done."
BJP leader says women should not go out alone in night
Meanwhile, Chandigarh BJP vice president Ramveer Bhatti drew flak for his reported controversial remarks on the incident.
Asked about a section of media quoting him as saying that girls and women should not go out alone at midnight, Bhatti said, "What I meant to convey is that it is the responsibility of parents to watch over their children and their activities."
"It is a general statement and not directed at the victim. I am saying, be it a boy or a girl, parents should be watching what they are doing. I am not saying that girls should be confined to their homes," he said.
He described the stalking incident as ‘unfortunate and shameful’.
"It is a shameful incident. Whatever happened is unfortunate," Bhatti said.
Bhatti also attacked the Congress leaders, saying why did they remain 'silent' in the rape and murder case involving a minor at Kotkhai in Himachal Pradesh.
"See their insensitivity... I am saying that such incidents, wherever these may take place in the country, are highly condemnable," Bhatti said.
However, Bhatti's reported statement that girls should not step out during the night alone did not go down well with his own party colleague Kher.
"I think this is a very unfortunate statement, which reflects the mindset of many men in this country. I think that Bhatti should have exercised restraint and not made this comment," Kher said.
"There are many young girls and women who work late, they work in hospitals as nurses, at call centres, various other places or go out to watch a movie, go to friend's houses, we have to provide them security and safety. We can't put the blame on them why they were out at night, whether it’s a boy or a girl, both have equal rights."
Barala's son Vikas, 23, and Ashish Kumar, 27, were earlier arrested for allegedly stalking the woman. However, both the accused were released later on bail as they were booked under bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Motor Vehicles Act.
The incident had come to light when the woman, around 28 years of age, called up the police on Friday night, complaining that two youth were chasing her along a stretch of over five kilometre from Chandigarh right up to a point in the Unio Territory, which is adjoining Haryana’s border.
Centre, BJP conspiring to hush up stalking case: Surjewala
The Congress meanwhile accused the central government and the BJP of 'conspiring to hush up' the case against the Haryana BJP chief's son.
All India Congress Committee media incharge Randeep Surjewala said the Chandigarh police comes directly under the Union home ministry and they are trying to protect Subhash Barala and his son.
He demanded an answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah why the BJP leader and his son were being 'protected'.
"The Union home ministry, which directly controls UT Administration and UT Police of Chandigarh, is conspiring to hush up the entire matter so as to protect the Haryana State BJP president and his son.
"Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah answer to the nation as to why BJP state President and his children are being protected in this fashion," Surjewala said.
He also accused Chandigarh Police Deputy Superintendent of Police Satish Kumar, probing the case, of changing his statement within hours, allegedly at the behest of the central government.
The Congress also released three videos of the DSP's statement and the woman narrating the incident.
Surjewala said the police was saying that the footage of CCTV cameras, showing the stalking incident was not available.
"Even before you have registered a case under correct sections, the CCTV footage has gone. Does it not show that the Union government is giving diktats to protect the Haryana BJP president and his son?" he said.
He accused the BJP of adopting double standards, saying when a similar incident happened involving the son of a senior minister in Haryana government a few years ago, the current Union home minister as the then National BJP president had demanded his resignation, which the Congress had accepted.
"Why double standards are being adopted by the BJP is a question that the country wants the prime minister, BJP president and others to answer," he said.
The Congress leader also asked if the BJP government and the UT Administration answer as to how all those CCTV cameras have stopped functioning and how all the CCTV footage had gone missing.
"Is that the transparency that Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks about? And we have also released the video of the girl in question and this young girl has clearly said that she has stated so before the magistrate in a statement under 164 and she is saying so again on camera that there was a clear cut unequivocal attempt to abduct her. But why has no FIR been lodged?" he asked.
Girl, father vow to continue fight
The woman, who has been interacting with the media afterthe incident, on Monday said that had she not been the daughter ofan IAS officer, things could have ended differently.
"If I had been a village girl, probably I would not havethe resources to fight these guys," she said.
However, she also said, "If we (being daughter of IAS officer) don't do it (pursue the case), then who will. Like with my father and his post, if we are not going to do this (pursue the case), then how can we expect others to raise their voices," she said.
At the same time, she also said, “But I have the power of people behind me, never before in my life have I felt so much support.”
The woman's father said he had full faith in the investigations.
"In all honesty, I must say Chandigarh police have actually saved my daughter's life and I am grateful for that.
"I have faith in the system and law of this land and I must say that my daughter is alive today because the system works. If the Chandigarh police system of helping out women in distress did not work, it is quite possible that she might not have been alive today," he said.
The IAS officer said that it was an issue of safety of a daughter.
"Had it been a daughter of a labourer being stalked by some petty criminals, will the offence become any less? They are as much citizens of this country as I am or as that boy is," the woman's father told the media.
The IAS officer said that Chandigarh police are carrying out their investigations.
"Wherever I have any concerns, I actually expressed these to the police authorities and they have assured me that they will do the needful. I had requested the Home Department immediately after the FIR was lodged that care be taken to secure CCTV footage," he said.
On the opposition demand that the Haryana BJP chief should resign as he can influence the investigation, the IAS officer said, "I am very clear that both the accused are young men, they are law students and they are fully aware of the consequences of their action. I do not hold their family responsible for their action."
About Bhatti reported controversial remark, the woman's father said, "That kind of statement is outrageous, but I do not want to join any political debate of any kind, I am an administrator, I am a bureaucrat, I do not want to join the debate.
"At the same time, I want to say that every daughter in the country has the right to live as free and equal citizen and I absolutely stand by that right. There is no way I can support anyone who say that girls should not step out at this time or that time. They have every right to carry out any lawful activity like any other citizen," he said.
The victim's father had taken to the social media and urged people to fight crime against women while sharing the ordeal his family had gone through due to the stalking incident.
'Will move court if charges diluted'
The Haryana IAS officer sought 'maximum punishment' for the accused and said that he will move court if charges against the duo were 'diluted'.
He, however, asserted that the family would not interfere with the investigation.
'We will not interfere with the investigation or the prosecution, just as we do not want the accused to influence the investigation in any way. The police and prosecution should be allowed to do their job.
'We will join the investigation whenever required by the police. We will contest in the court if we feel the charges are diluted or inadequately framed,' the bureaucrat said in a Facebook post.
He promised the people who were supporting his family that, 'WE SHALL NOT, EVER, BACK OUT OR STAND DOWN, irrespective of hardships or pressures'.
The IAS officer said the accused being law students were fully aware of the consequences of their action.
'Our target is to ensure that the guilty are brought to book. They are adult men, students of law, who are fully aware of the consequences of their actions, and hence must be appropriately punished.
'We want them to be punished for the offences they have actually committed, and that awarded punishment commensurate with their culpability. Not over punished, but definitely not under punished either,' he said.
Terming the incident as a 'cut and dried' case, the bureaucrat said there would be something wrong in the society if the system failed to deliver justice.
'In a cut and dried case like this, where there is nothing hazy or unclear in terms of actions or identities, if the system fails to deliver justice, then there is something deeply rotten in our society, our government and our country,' he said.
'The issue is, does our country allow a woman to live as a free and equal citizen, and if she is wronged, does it give her enough confidence to even claim justice? If not, we are no better than a lawless, barbaric society,' he further wrote on Facebook.
Swamy to file PIL to seek CBI probe
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, meanwhile, accused the Chandigarh Police of doing a 'somersault' on the case and said he would file a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for a court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the incident.
'With my associate lawyer A P Jagga on attempted abduction of an IAS officer's daughter by two drunk goons, I will file a PIL in Chandigarh,' he tweeted.
Asked what prompted him to file a PIL, the Rajya Sabha member told PTI it appeared the Chandigarh Police was in no position to conduct 'a fair and free' probe.
The police, he claimed, had first filed non-bailable offences against the accused and then 'withdrawn them all and let him (accused) go after having caught him red-handed'.
"Hence This matter should be court-monitored and the CBI should be asked to take it over. You can have an SIT if you want, other agencies also. This is my prayer," he said.
NCW demands free, fair probe
The National Commission for Women has sought a free and fair probe in the case.
The commission has also asked for regular updates in the case, NCW Chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam told PTI.
"In the letter (to police) we have asked them to conduct a quick, immediate, fair and free investigation in the case and let us know what is happening in every stage," she said.
Kumaramangalam also said, "I have always said that who are these people should not matter who the person is their antecedents don't matter, they could be rich poor political religious, doesn't matter. Crime against women is crime against women."
She further said that, "Unfortunately the police and the judicial system comes under a lot of pressure from the so-called VVIPs and that is not correct."
Kumaramangalam also described as 'regrettable and unfortunate' the reported remarks by Bhatti that girls and women should not be going out alone during midnight.
IAS officers' body for exemplary punishment
An association of Indian Administrative Services officers has described the case as 'absolutely shocking' and demanded 'exemplary and timely punishment' for such offences.
The Indian Administrative Service (Central) Association -- which claims to represent all 5,004 IAS officers working across the country -- stressed in a Tweet the need to make India 'a safe place' for women.
'Absolutely shocking. Time we made our nation a safe place for all women. Exemplary and timely punishment for offences a must,' it said on Sunday.