Two persons have been arrested in connection with the alleged molestation of a 23-year-old woman in a shared auto-rickshaw in the city, the police said on Wednesday. The woman was molested by a male co-passenger in an auto-rickshaw on June 7 and was thrown out at an isolated spot. Following the incident, the police worked on various inputs, released sketches of the accused and finally managed to nab them, Thane's Joint Commissioner of Police Madhukar Pandey told reporters here.
He said the accused co-passenger, Santosh Lokhande (38), was an auto rickshaw driver and lived in Louiswadi area in the city. He got admitted to Thane civil hospital after the incident in a bid to evade arrest. He had decided to get discharged once the matter cooled down, Pandey said. His wife had also lodged a missing complaint with Wagle Estate police on June 8. Based on a tip-off, the police zeroed-in on Lokhande on Monday and following interrogation arrested him in the early hours today, he said.
The victim, a management graduate working with a fitness firm at Mulund in adjoining Mumbai, was returning home from work at around 9.30 pm when she got into the auto-rickshaw, in which the man was already seated, at Mulund Check Naka to reach her home on Ghodbunder road. When the auto rickshaw proceeded a little distance, the co-passenger allegedly started touching her inappropriately to which she objected and raised an alarm, the police had earlier said. However, the auto driver, instead of paying attention to the alarm, turned the vehicle towards Pokhran Road No. 2 in Thane.
Later, the co-passenger and the auto driver allegedly beat up the woman. They then pushed her out of the vehicle at an isolated spot on Pokhran Road and fled, the police said. Some passersby found the woman lying on the road and took her to a hospital. The city's Naupada police had later registered offences under IPC sections pertaining to molestation, kidnapping, voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means and criminal intimidation.
Meanwhile, based on information provided by Lokhande about the vehicle's driver, identified as Lahu Goghare (49), a resident of Wagle Estate in Thane, the police laid a trap at his house and nabbed him also last evening. The police also seized the auto-rickshaw in which the incident had occurred. According to the police, the two accused were planning to escape from Thane but they were nabbed. The police claimed that they were drunk at the time of the incident and were planning to snatch the victim's chain, but failed to do so.
The police suspect that the duo was finding it difficult to clear their auto-rickshaw loans and hence had planned to snatch the victim's chain. Pandey said that both the accused had criminal records with Thane police. He said that after due consultations with the auto rickshaw unions, the police will make it mandatory to display the vehicle's and its driver's details on the back of the driver's seat. Any one violating this would be dealt with severely, he said.
To a query that earlier also such an initiative was undertaken by the RTO and traffic police, he said this time the auto rickshaw drivers/owners will have comply with it. The Thane incident comes close on the heels of a woman being raped and her nine-month-old baby being flung to the ground by three men travelling with her in a shared auto in Gurgaon.
In August 2014, a 24-year-old software professional, had suffered serious injuries, when she jumped from a moving auto rickshaw in Thane after the driver allegedly tried to abduct her. The incident had also taken place around 9.15 pm, when she boarded the rickshaw at Kapurbawdi Naka, which is near Pokhran Road No. 2, to reach her residence at Kolshet in the city.
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