In a shocking crime, a minor girl was sexually assaulted over a period of nine months. The Manpada police in Dombivli, a town neighbouring Mumbai, have booked 29 accused and arrested 26, including two minors, under the Indian Penal Code as well as the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
The arrested have been remanded to police custody till September 29. The minor offenders have been sent to a juvenile remand home. Police teams are searching for three others.
The 15-year-old victim approached the police on Wednesday night.
Her statement said her boyfriend recorded a video of them in an intimate act in January 2021, which he later used to blackmail her. Her boyfriend used the video to and force her into physical relations with some of his friends. “The victim reached the police station on Wednesday night. According to her statement, the accused sexually assaulted her repeatedly at various locations from January to September this year,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (east region) Datta Karale.
A Special Investigation Team, headed by Assistant Commissioner of Police (Administration) Sonali Dhole, has been formed to probe the case further.
According to the victim’s statement, sexual assault was committed repeatedly in various locations, including Dombivli, Murbad and Badlapur in the Thane district, and Rabale in Navi Mumbai.
According to police sources, the video used to coerce the victim is not yet in the police’s possession. “We checked the mobile phone of the girl and also of the 20-year-old boy with whom she was in a relationship previously. In both the phones, no such video as claimed was found. We will be sending the mobile phones for forensic analysis,” Senior Police Inspector Dadahari Choure, Manpada Police Station, said.
The police are also looking into the delay in reporting the crime, an official said. “All the accused are between the ages of 16 to 23 years and most of them are students. After the case was registered, our focus has been on arresting the accused,” Mr. Karale said.
Sources in the police said that, a few days ago, the victim and her maternal aunt went to a birthday party. The aunt noticed that the girl was not interested in the event, and was busy with calls and messages. Someone at the gathering hinted to the aunt that the girl was facing some issues. The aunt took her home, kept a watch on her for a week, and then took the girl into her confidence.
“In the conversation that followed, the girl narrated the ordeal that had started from January. The aunt got in touch with a social worker in the area, who then suggested that a trap be laid to nab the accused red-handed,” a police official said. The girl made a call to the accused and arranged a meeting. Some of the accused picked her up in an auto rickshaw while the social worker and victim’s aunt and uncle followed them in another auto rickshaw. The auto rickshaw in which the relatives and social worker were travelling had a punctured tyre, as a result of which they lost track of the vehicle in which the victim was travelling. They called the police. The girl, meanwhile, sent her aunt her location by GPS. The police, with the help of the aunt’s mobile phone, reached the location and began looking for the room in which the girl was. By then, the girl had been gang-raped by six men, who ran when they learnt of the police presence. The police nabbed two of them; the rest were caught on Thursday.
“After learning about the crime from the girl, had the family approached the police, at least the incident of Wednesday could have been avoided,” the officer added.