Actress-director Aparna Sen, painter Samir Aich and others in a protest march. A Telegraph picture
A murder case has been started against two youths who had allegedly threatened the 16-year-old gang-rape victim to withdraw her complaint and then allegedly set her on fire.
Police said the teenager, who had allegedly been gang-raped twice in two days near her former house in Madhyamgram in October, had named two youths — Ratan Sil and Minta — who she alleged had set her on fire.
“A murder case has been started against Ratan and Minta for setting the girl ablaze, which led to her death,” Santosh Nimbalkar, deputy commissioner of police, Bidhannagar commissionerate, said on Wednesday.
Ratan is the son of the owner of the house where the family had moved after allegedly being forced to leave Madhyamgram following threats to withdraw the complaint. Minta is a cousin of Ratan and friend of Chhotu Talukdar, the prime accused in the gang-rape case.
The police said the teenager made the statement naming Ratan and Minta three days after she was admitted to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital with severe burns on December 23. She died on Tuesday.
The duo, behind bars, were initially charged with criminal intimidation, causing grievous hurt with dangerous weapons, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace and common intention. “The attempt to murder charge was included on December 26, after the victim gave a statement before a doctor and the investigating officer that Ratan and Minta had doused her with kerosene and set her ablaze,” Nimbalkar added.
Following the teenager’s death, the attempt to murder charge automatically becomes a murder charge.
The police said on Wednesday that the initial impression that the girl had immolated herself was based on a medical certificate that described the injuries as “self-inclined injuries due to kerosene”.
“We have learnt that when the victim was admitted to the hospital, she was accompanied by her mother and Tapan Sil, the younger son of their landlord. It seems they had told the doctor that the girl had set herself ablaze,” said an officer.
Police officers, however, could not explain why they had not taken action against Tapan if they were sure that he had given a false statement to the doctor.
Sources said the victim’s condition was not stated to be “stable” on December 23 — a medical precondition for recording someone’s statement. The statement was recorded on December 26 when doctors declared her “mentally sound”.
Lawyers said the six youths who have been booked for the gang-rape should be included in the murder case as well.
“For proving the murder charge, one needs to focus on the knowledge and intention behind the crime. In this case, if at all the arrested duo had murdered the victim, the intention appears to be elimination of evidence in the rape case. How can the persons accused in the rape case be separated from the murder?” asked a criminal lawyer.
When asked, deputy commissioner Nimbalkar said: “We are yet to decide on this aspect. We are trying to find out the intention of the murder.”
Additional reporting by Soumen Bhattacharjee