An angry mob went on rampage in Shimla, ransacking a police station and pelting policemen with stones after a Nepalese labourer, held in connection with the shocking Kotkhai rape and murder case was allegedly killed in the lock-up by another accused, officials said.
The Himachal Pradesh high court handed over the investigation into the gang rape and murder case and also the custodial death of the accused to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
According to police officials, on Tuesday night Nepalese citizen Suraj had a heated argument with Rajendra, who was also arrested in connection with the same case.
Rajendra allegedly banged Suraj's head against a wall, leading to his death, a police official said.
IG (Southern range) Z H Zaidi said that Suraj had narrated the entire sequence leading to the rape incident and named Rajendra as the main accused.
Angered by the killing in the lock-up, a mob attacked the Kotkhai police station, setting ablaze vehicles and hurling stones, in which at least four policemen, including an ASP, were injured.
Furious protestors also blocked the Hatkoti-Theog and the Hindustan-Tibet highways for hours due to which hundreds of people were stranded.
The police faced a tough time even in shifting the injured to a hospital. After much effort, three of the injured policemen were admitted to a local hospital while one critically injured was referred to the Indira Gandhi Medical College in Shimla.
A recommendation for a judicial probe into the custodial death had been made, an official said.
A division bench of the high court consisting of acting chief justice Sanjay Karol and justice Sandeep Sharma directed the CBI to constitute a three member SIT, headed by an officer not below the rank of SP, along with two DSPs, and start investigations.
The court also asked the state police to hand over the entire record of the case to the CBI and also took on record the affidavits filed by the Director General of Police Somesh Goel, who was present in the court.
The state government had earlier moved the high court seeking that the CBI be directed to take over the investigations.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had also written a letter to the prime minister in this regard.
The state government had decided to get the case referred to the CBI for investigation following public outcry against the inquiry by the police.
People had taken to streets last week and there were allegations about attempts to shelter some influential persons involved in the heinous crime and that the six accused held in the case were not the main accused.
To keep the situation under control, additional police force was rushed to Kotkhai, as the authorities feared the killing would trigger outrage.
The Kotkhai rape and murder case took place on July 4 and had led to protests and anger. Even the role of the police came in for much criticism.
A girl, student of class X, was raped and murdered in the Kotkhai area of Shimla district after she took a lift in a vehicle allegedly driven by Rajendra, according to the police.
The victim's body was recovered from the nearby Halila forest two days later.
Six persons, including Suraj and Rajendra, were arrested in connection with the case.
Governor Acharya Devvrat has also asked the state government to give a report within two days and also summoned the DGP.
In a letter addressed to the chief secretary, Devvrat said that the alleged rape and murder of the minor girl was a serious matter which had angered people across the state.
'Various organisations have submitted representations demanding stringent punishment to the culprits and the police must take effective steps to restore the confidence of the people,' the letter said.
Meanwhile, the chief minister, who was on a visit to Mandi, said that Suraj was not the main accused and he was hit by another accused on his genitals and the matter is being investigated.
Bharatiya Janata Party MPs from the state -- JP Nadda, Shanta Kumar, Anurag Thakur and Ram Swaroop along with state party chief Satpal Singh Satti called on Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and expressed concern over the worsening law and order situation in Himachal Pradesh and demanded dismissal of the state government.
The party has called for a 'bandh' in Shimla and said it will stage demonstrations on July 21.
IMAGE: Irate mob set ablaze a police vehicle at Kotkhai near Shimla on Wednesday following alleged murder of a suspect lodged in jail by another co-accused in the 16-yr-old girls rape-and murder case. Photograph: PTI Photo