Budaun (UP), Jan 8 (PTI) A priest was quizzed throughout the night for his alleged role in the gangrape of an anganwadi worker in this Uttar Pradesh district after his arrest in the early hours of Friday, police said.
'Mahant' Satya Narayan, the main accused in the case, was hiding in a forest area near the house of one of his followers in Mewali village under the Ughaiti police station, from where he was picked up in a late-night crackdown, they said, adding that he was on the run for five days.
The priest, who is in his 50s, was immediately arrested and interrogated by a police team.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sankalp Sharma said the sub-inspector in-charge of the area, Amarjit Singh, was suspended on Friday.
The station house officer (SHO) of the Ughaiti police station, Raghvendra Pratap, was suspended earlier for a 'delay in informing higher authorities, laxity in taking action, dereliction of duty and failure in taking speedy action' and a case under IPC section 166A (public servant disobeying law) has been registered against the two officers.
They had informed senior officials about the incident after a delay of 17 hours, the SSP said.
He said the priest is being questioned and further action will be taken in accordance with the information provided by him.
Some more people are on police radar and they are also being questioned, the SSP said, adding that all the angles are being looked into and the case will be solved soon.
The priest will be taken for a medical examination and produced before a local court for seeking remand later in the day, the police said.
The 50-year-old woman, who had gone to a temple, was found dead under mysterious circumstances on Sunday. Her family members accused the temple priest and his accomplices of raping and killing her.
A case was registered against the accused and two of them -- Vedram and Jaspal -- were arrested on Tuesday night.
The incident triggered an opposition outcry and a comparison with the 2012 Nirbhaya case in Delhi after the post-mortem report confirmed rape, a broken rib cage, a fractured leg and injuries in the victim's private parts.
The incident took place on Sunday and the matter came to light that night itself when the priest and his accomplices took the victim's body to her house, saying it was found in a dry well on the temple premises.
The FIR was registered on Tuesday after an autopsy confirmed rape and the two accomplices of the priest were nabbed.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered 'strongest possible action' in the case even as opposition parties have launched an attack on his government, terming the incident 'horrific' and 'shameful', with the Congress comparing it to the Nirbhaya case.
Following the incident, Bareilly ADG Avinash Chandra had visited the crime spot and announced a reward of Rs 50,000 on the priest's arrest.
'Based on complaints from the family members and the post-mortem report, a case has been registered under sections 376D (gang-rape) and 302 (punishment for murder) of the IPC,' he had said.
The ADG had said a second opinion on the post-mortem report was being sought from medical experts and only after that, any conclusion could be drawn.
Budaun Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Yashpal Singh said the woman died of trauma and excessive bleeding.
Endorsing the CMO's opinion, District Magistrate Kumar Prashant said, 'Whatever help can be given from the department will be given. She was an anganwadi sahayika (helper). We are also paying attention to the security of the family.' The victim's son said his mother had gone to offer prayers at the temple on Sunday but did not return home within the expected time.
Around 11 pm, the priest and two of his aides came to their house and handed over the body, he added.
Before the family members could ask them about the cause of her death, the accused left the house saying she had fallen into a dry well and the body was pulled out subsequently.
The victim's son said the police were informed of the incident on Monday.
Amid the opposition uproar, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO), in a tweet, said: 'The UP CM @myogiadityanath has taken cognisance of the Badaun incident and instructed to take strongest legal action against the accused.' The chief minister has also instructed the ADG, Bareilly zone to submit a detailed report on the incident and directed the Special Task Force (STF) to assist in the probe, it said.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is also in charge of the party's affairs in Uttar Pradesh, hit out at the Adityanath government, alleging that there is something wrong in its intention on the issue of women's security.
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati too have condemned the incident.
The Budaun incident comes months after a Dalit woman from Hathras was allegedly raped by four men on September 14 last year. She died on September 29 at Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken note of the Budaun incident and sent a team of its members for a probe.
NCW member Chandramukhi Devi, who met the victim's family members on Thursday, said the incident could have been avoided had the woman not stepped out in the evening.
She, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the police action in the case.
'I tell women again and again that they should never go out at odd hours under anyone's influence.
'I think had she not gone out in the evening or if she was accompanied by a child of the family, perhaps the incident could have been avoided. But this was pre-planned as she was called through a phone call. She went (out) and returned in such a state,' she told reporters at the victim's village. PTI CORR SAB SMI RC