Chembur violence case: GRP claims they circulated info on Aarti, cops say they didn't get it

Updated: Feb 01, 2020, 07:46 IST | Anurag Kamble | Mumbai

After Aarti Rithadiya was found to have died the day she went missing, events point to glaring blunders in the police investigation

Pancharam Rithadiya
Pancharam Rithadiya

With the discovery of 17-year-old Aarti Rithadiya's death by the Crime Branch on Thursday, the Nehru Nagar police, with whom her missing person case had been filed, and the GRP, who discovered her body on the tracks the same day, are now playing the blame game.

Aarti, who went missing on March 30, 2019, was found dead on rail tracks on the same day. Even though it's still not clear whether she committed suicide or died in an accident, a shoddy investigation led to her father, Pancharam Rithadiya killing himself on October 13 last year. Post the incident, the Nehru Nagar cops had found a suicide note in his pocket, which blamed the cops and five other people from his community for Aarti's death.

The messy probe
On the day of Aarti's disappearance, her family had approached the Nehru Nagar police and submitted an ID card as her age proof. The card mentioned her age as 18 years. The Nehru Nagar cops registered a missing person's case and circulated the information among all police stations. Twenty days later the family returned with Aarti's birth certificate, which mentions her as a minor. Thereafter, a kidnapping case was registered and an investigation started. However, both the times the cops did not reach out to the nearby hospitals. At the same time, the Wadala GRP recovered Aarti's body from rail tracks and took her to Sion Hospital where they entered her age as 22 years. While the GRP claims that they had circulated information about Aarti on the police network, Nehru Nagar cops are of the opinion that the former did not inform them about the body. Speaking to mid-day, DCP (Zone 6), Mumbai police, Shashi Kumar Meena, said, "We are reviewing the facts and procedures followed by the police station. We will definitely check where the negligence happened."

Pancharam Rithadiya; (right) Aarti Rithadiya
Pancharam Rithadiya; (right) Aarti Rithadiya

On the other hand, DCP (Central Railway), MM Makandar, said, "We are checking with our officers what exactly they did to identify the girl and whether they followed the standard operating procedure."

The case was later handed over to the Crime Branch Unit 6 headed by Dipak Chavhan. Soon after, a team comprising assistant police inspectors, Anil Gaikwad and Archana Kudale started the investigation.

"To begin with, we checked all the accidental death reports registered in 94 police stations across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Palghar. Later, we screened a number of
children's and women's shelter," said an officer.

"Teams were also sent to women's jails and even marriage registry offices across the city were checked but we did not find anything. Social media accounts were screened and three suspects were rounded off but it yielded nothing," the officer added. The Crime Branch had sought details from all the GRPs in the city but they didn't get any information about Aarti.

Finally, the Crime Branch decided to check the morgues of different hospitals. When one of the officers visited Sion hospital, he found an entry of a 22-yr-old girl in the list. When her details and pictures were shared with Aarti's family, they identified her.

30
Day in March 2019 when Aarti Rithadiya had gone missing

Aarti's sister speaks

On February 27 Aarti's father went to Gujarat to see his father, as he was unwell. At that time, his brother-in-law came to stay with them. Aarti's elder sister, Pooja Rithadiya said, “Around mid-March last year I spotted Aarti speaking to a guy at the Hanuman temple near our house. When I asked her who he was, she replied saying, 'He is Bhagchand.'” Since then Pooja noticed that she would use her maternal uncle's phone to speak and message someone. Around 7 am on March 30 when Pooja again saw her speaking on the phone, she yelled at her and said, “Enough is enough. I'll tell your mother and uncle about this.” Aarti retaliated by saying, “Do whatever you want.” That is when she left the house and never returned.

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