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MLA wanted for woman’s murder

Shimla, Jan. 6: A Congress MLA from Himachal Pradesh has been on the run for six weeks after a 24-year-old woman BEd student was found dead on a Haryana street, ears chopped off and head smashed, two months after allegedly undergoing an abortion.

Haryana police have obtained arrest warrants and issued a lookout notice for Doon MLA Ram Kumar Chaudhary, 45, and three alleged accomplices, said a senior officer in Panchkula, where the body was found on November 22.

Chaudhary disappeared from public view after the Haryana police called him for questioning, having discovered from his and the victim’s call details that she had called him the previous day and he had been in Panchkula, officers said.

The first-time MLA, among the richest of Himachal’s lawmakers, did not attend the legislature party meeting or swearing-in of ministers after the Assembly results were declared on December 20.

The victim’s father Booti Ram, a tailor from a Punjab village, has alleged the police initially tried to hush up the probe despite Chaudhary’s disappearance. He said the MLA was named as an accused only after he obtained a court order.

The woman was doing a BEd course in Mohali, Punjab, and stayed as a paying guest in Chandigarh. Her body was found in Sector 21 of Panchkula near Chandigarh.

Booti has told the Haryana police that Chaudhary had visited the family’s home in Hoshiarpur in September 2009 to attend the wedding of his younger daughter. The victim had introduced the MLA as her boss.

Officers said the post-mortem had revealed that the victim had been sexually active for the past two to three years. They claimed she had terminated a five-month-old pregnancy in September at a Panchkula clinic, where Chaudhary had allegedly accompanied her posing as her brother.

Investigations have revealed that for three months before the murder, around Rs 50,000 was deposited every month in the victim’s bank account from Chaudhary’s hometown of Baddi in Himachal.

A Haryana court issued arrest warrants against Chaudhary on December 22 and, seven days later, the police issued a lookout notice for the MLA, his relatives Gurmeet and Dharampal and driver Paramjeet. The arrest warrants were renewed yesterday.

On December 26, a Panchkula court rejected Chaudhary’s bail application, which alleged his aide Satpal had had physical relations with the victim and had been using the MLA’s phone. The police are looking for Satpal.

Chaudhary won the Assembly seat by 3,830 votes. He is the son of former Congress MLA Lajja Ram, who won four elections from the same constituency, and is a state Congress general secretary.

The police are hoping he might turn up at the MLAs’ oath-taking in Dharamshala on January 8. “Dharamshala police have been alerted,” said Baddi superintendent of police S. Arul.