No one objected to the Jammu and Kashmir government transferring the investigation into the rape and murder of the 8-year-old Bakwarwal girl in Kathua to the Crime Branch on 23 January. Nor did anyone question the constitution of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) when names of its members were made public.
However, as the investigation progressed, leading to the detention of eight accused – all of whom belong to one community – allegations that the investigation was a farce began to float. Amidst these allegations, the name of one particular member of the crime branch that investigated the case was brought up again and again – Irfan Wani (real name Urfan). Past cases of murder and rape filed against Wani were brought back into focus to question the credentials of the investigation and its authorities. These allegations have gone a long way in their attempt to discredit the authorities.
The Quint spoke exclusively to Wani to decode the veracity behind the grave murder and rape charge leveled against him.
Charged But Ultimately Exonerated
During the investigation, The Quint learned that while Wani served as in-charge of Karara police post in Jammu’s Doda district, he faced charges of custodial killing of a murder accused and the rape of his sister in 2007.
Wani was subsequently terminated from service over a disputed departmental enquiry. However, a magisterial enquiry, a de novo departmental enquiry, and a judicial trial acquitted him of all the charges and reinstated him into service.
On Wani’s appeal against the departmental enquiry, the then IGP of Jammu, Dilbagh Singh, ordered de novo enquiry (a fresh enquiry). This was conducted by three successive senior superintendents of police and supervised by two DIGs of Doda, Munish Kumar Sinha and Basant Kumar Rath. IGP Jammu SD Singh Jamwal accepted the fresh report submitted by DIG Basant Rath and ordered Wani’s total exoneration and reinstatement with full benefits.
Munish Kumar Sinha, who was DIG Doda then and now is IGP and posted as Joint Director with CBI, told The Quint:
"Those were totally concocted and unfounded cases against him. He was an innocent officer and had been framed. I feel vindicated that nothing was proved against him in the judicial trial, leading to him being exonerated of all charges."
Wani Faced Two ‘Dubious’ Cases
1. Charged with Custodial Murder of Rishi Kumar on 24 April 2007
2. Charged with Rape of Rishi Kumar’s sister on 25 April 2007
3. In custody from October 2009, Wani got bail in March 2011
4. Wani’s trials for murder & rape started in April 2009 & October 2010 respectively
5. On 11 May 2017, Wani was acquitted of all charges
'Framed For Not Helping BJP Leaders'
The Quint found that charges were framed against Wani when he refused to oblige local and senior leaders of BJP, including two former state presidents in the back, who wanted him to hush up a murder case against members of the Village Defence Committee (VDC), Swara, in Doda.
Wani claims to have recorded phone conversations where politicians told him that they would withdraw both FIRs against him if he agreed to withdraw his investigation into the murder cases against the VDC members. One of the leaders he claims spoke to him to him is now a BJP MLA from that area. He is heard telling Wani that he was in touch with senior BJP leaders on the matter. But, unsure of the BJP delivering on its promise, Wani chose to not give in and stand firm on the chargesheet he had filed.
What Was the Murder Case Wani Investigated?
On 17 May 2006, near Swara village in Doda, militants intercepted a Tata Sumo passenger carriage. The family of local BJP leader Mela Ram was travelling in the vehicle. Mela Ram’s personal security officer (PSO) was relieved of his rifle, and allowed to go off with the family.
The PSO returned to Swara and informed the village defence guards. The guards staged a drama of an encounter by firing indiscriminately. Farooq Ahmad Khan (28), who was grazing his sheep, was fatally hit. He was declared ‘brought dead’ at Public Health Centre (PHC) in Gandoh.
This was the case that Wani got. An FIR was filed by Khan's family under sections 302 and 109 of Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) at the Gandoh police station where Wani was appointed with the charge of additional SHO. The complaint was registered against the members of the village defence committee.
The investigation was completed and the murder charge was established against the VDC members. This, even as they went underground with the alleged support of local BJP leaders. After Wani’s transfer, a challan was filed in the court of District and Sessions Judge Bhaderwah against six accused on 2 July 2007.
While all this transpired, Wani says, BJP leaders left no stone unturned to exert pressure on him. In his statement in the court, he has named the party’s former State President DK Kotwal.
First, A 'Custodial Murder' Pinned on Wani
On 2 April 2007, Madan Lal, son of Fulail Singh from Chirala, was killed due to a family dispute. Wani, who was SHO of Karala police post at the time, got the report filed in the daily diary upon which FIR No: 21 of 2007 under section 302 RPC was registered at Police Station Thathri, Doda, the same day.
Father of the deceased, Fulail Singh, step-brother Rishi Kumar and other family members, including Rishi’s sister, were called for questioning to PP Karala after a spot inspection by officers from 2 April to 18 April.
According to the trial court records, the deceased's sister was questioned in the presence of family and relatives. The sarpanch Mohammad Ramzan was also present. In the evening, after the girl’s statement was recorded, she was let off. Ramzan insisted that the girl and her sister-in-law (wife of the deceased) stay at the police post and return to her home next day. Both stayed there and went back to Chirala next day.
On 19 April, Fulail Singh, Rishi Kumar and the other accused were formally arrested. Rishi was taken by Wani to a judicial magistrate at Thathri for remand on 20 April 2007. However, on the same day, Rishi fell ill and was rushed by Wani to the public healthcare centre at Thathri. He was referred to the District Hospital in Doda and therefrom to Government Medical College (GMC) Jammu on 22 April. He died here on 24 April. Wani remained with Rishi without break from 19 April to 24 April and had donated blood to him at GMC Jammu.
Second, Rape Charges Leveled Against Wani That Led to a Broken Marriage
A day after Rishi's death, his sister raised allegations that Wani had held her forcibly in his room at the police post in Karara where she spent the night with her sister-in-law, beat her up and raped her repeatedly for seven days. On her complaint, an FIR of rape was registered against Wani under sections 376 and 343 of RPC. He was suspended on 26 April.
Subsequently, on a court direction FIR No: 39 of 2007 under section 302 RPC (murder) was registered against staff of the police post Karala. None other than Wani was picked up for prosecution.
Wani, who was in the thick of his preparations for marriage, went into depression following the rape charges. He remained under treatment of private psychiatrists and a government hospital for psychiatric diseases in Srinagar from 24 June onwards. His engagement was ended despite nikah. It was during these days, when the chargesheet was about to be filed in the murder case against VDC Swara members, that Wani was allegedly put under maximum pressure with the offer that both the cases against him could be withdrawn under a deal.
After the murder and rape FIRs were filed, Rishi’s sister, the complainant in the rape charge, was taken to Jammu reportedly by some BJP leaders and kept at an undisclosed location. On 26 April 2007, she was medically examined first at District Hospital Doda and later again under High Court direction at GMC Jammu.
Inquiry Into Charges Against Wani
Police failed to find any material or circumstantial evidence of “recent rape”. It was also proved that Wani was at PP Karala for only six of the seven days he was accused of raping Rishi’s sister.
Wani surrendered on 12 October 2009 and was granted bail on 8 March 2011. Meanwhile, trial in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Doda commenced in the murder case from 8 April 2009 and in the rape case from 22 October 2010.
The complainant in the rape case was repeatedly summoned to court but she didn't appear even once for about eight years. Eleven months later, a Dy SP got her statement recorded under section 164-A Cr PC before a magistrate in Jammu. The statement given by the woman didn’t identify witnesses. Even the original copy was not provided to the trial court. And, she never chose to appear for cross examination.
The judge noted that out of 27 witnesses spoken to by the police, the prosecution produced 22 in the alleged rape case against Wani. All but one of them (then SSP Doda Manohar Singh) either failed to corroborate their statements or turned hostile during the hearing. Similar was the fate of the alleged custodial murder case against Wani.
Finally, on 11 May 2017, Additional Sessions Judge Doda dismissed both the cases as not admitted and acquitted Wani of all the charges leveled against him.
Exonerated and Back in Service
The judge noted that the allegation of rape during the period mentioned by the complainant was neither established in the medical examination nor by other evidences. It was established that the complainant along with her sister-in-law Indira Devi stayed for one night (18/19 April, 2007) with the lady constables and neither the accused Wani nor any other person beat her up or violated her sexually as alleged. It was also established that out of the seven days from 18 April, Wani was continuously with Rishi at different hospitals.
During the cross examination, Additional SP Bhaderwah revealed in the trial court that during the preliminary enquiry before registration of FIR: 27 of 2007, the complainant woman stated in the presence of Numberdar (village headman) that Wani had “not committed/done any illegal act with her nor had he beaten her or outraged her modesty or been sexually harassed by the accused”.
“…I am of this considered opinion that the prosecution has failed to establish the charge u/s 376 RPC (rape) against the accused beyond any reasonable shadow of doubt. The net result of which is that this challan fails and is accordingly dismissed as not proved and accused is acquitted of all the charges leveled against him,” recorded the judge in his final disposal of the alleged rape case on 11 May 2017. In an identical order on the same day, the trial court dismissed the alleged murder case and acquitted Wani of all charges.
The inquiry ordered by former IGP Jammu Dilbagh Singh also exonerated him of all charges of professional misconduct and criminal involvement and accorded all service benefits without any break to his service.
Rape Complainant Nowhere To Be Found
It was reported that the girl was staying with some social activists at RSS-run Atit Paristan Nari Niketan in Jammu. When her father Fulail Singh was given bail on medical grounds, he filed FIR No: 83 of 2007 under section 363 at Police Station Thathri against the RSS activist Narender Singh, seeking recovery of his daughter.
As the police remained disinclined, Fulail Singh got an order from vacation judge at Ramban directing the police to recover his daughter.
Subsequently, 11 months after April 2007, a Deputy SP produced the girl before the forest magistrate in Jammu where her statement was recorded. The trial court has recorded that its original copy was never provided to him despite reminders to the Registrar.
In the last 8 years, the complainant girl has not been spotted anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit Send.
. Read more on India by The Quint.‘Hurt, Helpless’: Mary Kom & Saina Nehwal Slam Rise in Rape CasesKathua Rape: The True Story Behind ‘Tainted’ J&K Cop Irfan Wani . Read more on India by The Quint.