The Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate for the December 5 Bhanupratappur assembly bypoll in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday skipped the Jharkhand police's summons in connection with a rape case registered in the neighbouring state.
The election agent of the candidate, Brahmanand Netam, said he has submitted a reply to the Jharkhand police on the leader's behalf stating Netam is busy with electioneering.
The three other accused in the case, also residents of Kanker in Chhattisgarh, failed to appear before the Jharkhand police, an official said.
Former BJP MLA Brahmanand Netam and three others were named as accused in a case lodged on May 15, 2019, at Telco police station in Jamshedpur in connection with a 15-year-old girl allegedly being pushed into the flesh trade and raped by several persons, officials said.
A police team from Telco police station reached Kanker on Monday and contacted local police to trace the whereabouts of Netam and three others, a senior Chhattisgarh police official said.
The Jharkhand police personnel accompanied by local police were seen outside the houses of all the four accused and serving notices seeking their appearance at 10 am on Tuesday.
Subsequently, a group of BJP leaders led by MLA Saurabh Singh and election agent of Netam, Nand Kumar Ojha, reached Kanker Kotwali police station this afternoon and met the Jharkhand police team.
Ojha said the Jharkhand police had handed over a notice to Netam's son this morning at his house in Charama area and he has submitted its reply to them.
Ojha said he told the police team that Netam was busy in campaigning for the bypoll.
“I told Jharkhand police that Netam is yet to receive the notice as he is busy campaigning. It will be more convenient if they serve a notice or take any action after December 8 (the day when the counting of votes for the bypoll will be held).
"We will cooperate with them in the future. We have submitted a reply to the notice in writing as well as verbally which they have accepted,” Ojha said.
According to police, three other accused in the case also failed to appear before the visiting police team.
Deputy superintendent of police from Jharkhand, Sumit Kumar, said the police arrived in Kanker to investigate the 2019 case and raids are being conducted (in Kanker district) to arrest some accused.
The FIR was registered under sections 366 A (procuration of minor girl), 376 (rape), 376 AB (rape on a woman under twelve years of age) and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, and The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.
Meanwhile, Netam was seen campaigning for the bypoll in the Bhanupratappur area during the day.
The ruling Congress on November 20 raised the issue and shared the case details triggering a political storm.
The opposition BJP had responded by alleging a conspiracy by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in collusion with the Hemant Soren-led government in Jharkhand to malign Netam's image, fearing defeat in the byelection.
The bypoll for Bhanupratappur seat (reserved for ST candidates) was necessitated due to the death of Congress MLA and Chhattisgarh assembly's deputy Speaker Manoj Singh Mandavi last month.