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Kidnap theory under attack
- Wilful disappearance: Defence

Calcutta, Feb. 7: The dramatic twists and turns in the Roma Jhawar case moved to the courtroom today with a defence lawyer claiming that the college girl was not kidnapped but it was a 'few hours' wilful disappearance'.

The sweeping contention ' immediately contested by Roma's family lawyer ' came on a day of fast-paced developments on which more suspects as well as cash fell into the police dragnet.

The counsel for Gunjan Ghosh, the prime suspect arrested yesterday, told a court that Roma had gone to visit a friend on Friday ' the day she was said to have been abducted at gunpoint near her Salt Lake home ' and stayed the night at the latter's place without informing her family and returned the next morning.

The lawyer said Roma might have met Gunjan on the same day but did not clarify whether the suspect was the friend he had referred to earlier.

In support of his contention, Kabir Biswas, counsel for Gunjan and three other accused, said Roma's brother Rajesh Jhawar had not mentioned the word 'kidnap' in the first information report that the family filed with the Bidhannagar North Police station.

'Our submission is that the FIR does not bear the word 'kidnap', neither is it clear from the report as to who had informed the family of the girl's disappearance. We pray to the court to take note of the relationship between the girl and my client,' Biswas said in a packed court.

'As it appears, the girl had gone to visit Gunjan Ghosh, my client, of her own volition and returned next morning. She might have forgotten to keep her family informed of the visit,' Biswas said.

The Jhawar family lawyer, Partha Majumdar, later said Roma would not have revealed Gunjan's name if she had a 'relationship' with him. 'The statement of the defence lawyer is absolutely untrue. It was Roma who informed the police that Gunjan Ghosh was the mastermind. If she had any relationship with him, she would not have revealed his name to the police.' Outside the court, Gunjan's wife Rumela said: 'My husband knew her.'

Rumela and her mother-in-law Krishna Mitra were in the court when Gunjan, Munna Sau, Dasarath Yadav and Dinesh Yadav were being kept in the court lock-up. Krishna, seated on the third bench, began to cry, while Rumela, just behind her mother-in-law, went on looking over her shoulder, trying to catch her husband's attention.

At one point, she stood up and walked up to the lock-up to have a quick word with Gunjan, but the guard sent her back to her seat.

The three other accused produced in the court today, Ramachandra Singh, Damodar Yadav and Dilip Baidya, told the magistrate that they were yet to appoint a lawyer. 'We are innocent,' the three said by turn.

Outside the trial court, it was no less eventful. A couple, identifying themselves as Gunjan's uncle and aunt, walked into Belgharia police station and handed over Rs 5.7 lakh, which they claimed the suspect's father, Ashoke Pradip Ghosh, had asked them to keep.

Soon after, Gunjan's father was questioned, charged with complicity and taken into custody. Also arrested during the day was Sukumar Mondal, the driver of the Tata Indica in which Roma was travelling on the fateful day. According to the police, Mondal had not only passed on information to the kidnappers but also played a role by slowing down the car and allowing the kidnappers to overtake the Indica.

The investigators are now looking for Arvind, a gangster with links in Bihar, Kalu and Pappu, who are believed to be on the run with large chunks of the ransom reportedly collected from the Jhawars.

Defence lawyer Biswas claimed that the police report said Roma was kidnapped in a van, but the seizure list produced before the court included only one car in which Roma left the house.

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