Exclusive: Mumbai toddler rape case takes a new turn thanks to police apathy

Apr 06, 2018, 08:37 IST | Suraj Ojha, Hajra Bi and Samiullah Khan

After dragging their feet for four days after Bombay High Court cancelled the bail of foreign educationist, MIDC police say they can't trace him

A police team visited the trustee's residence in the La Feliz building in Malad West, but returned empty-handed. Pics/Nimesh Dave
A police team visited the trustee's residence in the La Feliz building in Malad West, but returned empty-handed. Pics/Nimesh Dave

The Andheri school trustee accused of sexually assaulting a three-year-old is now on the run, thanks to the delayed action of the police on a Bombay High Court order. On April 2, HC rejected the French national's bail application and asked cops to immediately arrest him. But cops sent a team to his Malad residence only on Thursday, because they were waiting for the judgement copy. In the meantime, the trustee managed to flee and cops came back empty-handed.

The building in Malad West, where the accused resides. Pic/Nimesh Dave
The building in Malad West, where the accused resides. Pic/Nimesh Dave

The complainant's advocate Vijay Hiremath told mid-day HC had quashed the accused's bail order and asked him to surrender before the concerned authority at once, but the police did not act promptly to arrest him. Advocate SS Sawalkar said, "Ideally the cops were supposed to take him into custody as soon as his bail got rejected. He shouldn't have walked free for all these days, as the crime is sensitive in nature."

La Feliz building in Malad

Justifying their action, ACP of Sakinaka division, Milind Khetle said they were waiting for the judgement copy. They received the copy yesterday and hence dispatched a team to arrest the accused only then. Previously, the trustee had been arrested on November 7, 2017, but released on bail a fortnight later.

Looking at other places
Meanwhile, police sources said they have formed a special team to arrest the trustee. While they didn't find him on Thursday, they will now look at other places where he could possibly be. When team mid-day reached the building in Malad West, where the accused resides, it learnt from the neighbours and the watchman that the accused's house has been locked for the past three days. After the court order, cops had also visited the house two days ago to check on him, but left immediately upon seeing it locked.

No time to surrender
HC had cancelled the trustee's bail on April 2 in the case where has been booked for aggravated sexual assault of a three-year-old kindergarten student in his Andheri school. The French national was to immediately turn himself in before the appropriate authority as HC justice Revati Mohite-Dere also rejected his lawyer's request asking for some time to surrender.

Dismissing the request, Mohite-Dere had said, "Once I come to the conclusion that the order granting bail is perverse, there is no question of granting time to surrender." The accused's lawyer then asked for time to appeal for bail in the Supreme Court, but HC rejected that too.

Sufficient evidence
HC was acting on a plea filed by the toddler's mother and struck down a November 24, 2017 order by a special POCSO court that had granted bail to the accused. It had done so on the grounds that the observations made by the special court were contrary to case records.

The special court had given bail to the trustee saying there was no incriminating evidence against him, and that he was neither named by the complainant in the FIR nor in her statement recorded by a magistrate. HC, however, found this observation contrary to record and said, "Prima facie, there is sufficient evidence pointing towards complicity of Respondent No. 1 [the accused]".

Mohite-Dere noted that the child had indeed identified the trustee as the perpetrator of the crime through a photograph, and that all statements recorded by police were "consistent with the complicity of Respondent No. 1". Though the incident allegedly occurred in late 2016, it came to light in May 2017, after the child's parents noticed changes in her behaviour, and found she had difficulty in sitting and walking. When they asked her if anyone had hurt her or touched her inappropriately, she answered in the affirmative and identified the photograph of the founder-trustee as the "boy teacher" who hurt her, the child's mother had said in her complaint.

Hearing expedited
HC further expedited the hearing of this case and asked the sessions judge to decide on the case in any event, within four months from the date of receipt of the HC order. mid-day has learned from a court source that on the day of hearing, the alleged accused did not come for hearing. However his wife, advocate and a bunch of teachers from the school were present.

Also Read: Mumbai toddler rape case: 'Accomplice' who helped Andheri school trustee held

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