Patna, May 19: Lalita Devi, who turned sleuth after her son was jailed on the charge of killing his wife, was the happiest person in a Muzaffarpur court today after her son was released on bail.
Like Agatha Christie's elderly detective Miss Marple who was forever correcting the cops, Lalita, 50, had sleuthed and fought to convince a sceptical police that her daughter-in-law Rinki Kumari, whose "dowry murder" had landed her son Manoj Kumar in jail, was living with her lover in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
Manoj was released on bail today after languishing for two years in the Muzaffarpur central jail, and the court of additional district and sessions judge VII T. Anamika sent Rinki to 14-day judicial custody on the charge of murdering an unidentified woman and dumping the body, which her parents had identified as Rinki's.
"I have won the legal battle but the incident has shaken me from the inside," Lalita told a group of journalists before leaving for home in Jagannath Dokra, around 30km west of Muzaffarpur town, with son Manoj.
After Rinki went missing in 2015, her parents not only accused Manoj - a resident of Jagannath Dokra village under Saraiya police station in Muzaffarpur district - of murdering her but had also identified the body of a young woman in a nearby village two days after the alleged murder as that of their daughter. Lalita, convinced of her son's innocence, hunted down Rinki in Jabalpur and convinced the cops - after several failed attempts - to send a team to Jabalpur and bring Rinki back.
Rinki deposed before the additional district and sessions judge VII in Muzaffarpur and told the court she was alive.
"The court within no time admitted his (Manoj's) bail petition and allowed him to be released on bail," said investigating officer Shatrughna Sharma, who was assigned the task to produce Rinki in court after she was found in Jabalpur a week ago.
Sharma, an assistant sub-inspector of police posted at the Saraiya police station, said he identified the arrested woman as Rinki Kumari in court.
Rinki told the court that she had escaped from her in-laws' house on April 8, 2015 on her own. "My parents married me off to Manoj on May 1, 2014 despite my protest. I had an affair with one Mayur Malik while staying with my parents in Jabalpur. I had also told my in-laws' relatives about it two days before the marriage, but nobody paid any heed," she told the court. "I eloped from my in-laws' house at the behest of Mayur, who I married later."
She added: "I have a 10-month-old son with Mayur. I am happy with him and don't want to live with my first husband (Manoj)."
She, however, claimed ignorance about any dowry death case lodged against Manoj by her parents.
"I don't know how it happened with Manoj," investigating officer Sharma quoted Rinki as saying. "I am quite in the dark on the matter. Ask my parents; only they will be able to reply to such queries."
Sharma told The Telegraph from Muzaffarpur that Rinki's statement was recorded in the trial court under Section 164 of the CrPC. The court ordered her to be taken into judicial custody in connection with the case lodged on Lalita's statement.
Lalita had alleged in her complaint that her son Manoj was implicated in a false case under a well-hatched conspiracy.
"They (Rinki and her relatives) murdered a young woman and dumped her body in the river near Rewaghat to book Manoj in a murder case," she said in her complaint.
Sharma said Rinki and her seven relatives, including father Chandeshwar Sharma, have been booked under sections 302 (murder), 201 (tampering with evidences), 195 (fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of the offence punishable with imprisonment for life) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC. The officer said he would seek advice from his seniors on how to proceed in the case.
"This is the first time in my service of almost three decades as a police officer that I have come across such a complex case," he said. "It would be an arduous task to ascertain the identity of the body of a woman which according to Rinki's parents was that of their daughter."