How Nirbhaya case was solved
The brutal gangrape that took place in 2012, shook the entire country. We reproduce an extract from the book, Khaki Files, which reveals how the case was cracked
Khaki Files, published by Penguin Random House, is an insider’s account of the most daring police cases in the country. Neeraj Kumar revisits many such high-profile cases of his career as an IPS officer.
NIGHT OF SHAME
When I look back on the high points of those trying times, the fieldwork done by the detectives of the south district during the nights of 16 and 17 December 2012 to identify and locate the bus using CCTV footage of hotels in Mahipalpur stands out as a remarkable piece of police work. I shudder to think of the consequences if the initial breakthrough had not been made so quickly. Following the initial breakthrough and the arrest of Ram Singh, Pawan and Vinay, the three field operations conducted to arrest the remaining accused, namely, Mukesh, Akshay and Raju by 21 December were outstanding.
Looking for Raju with no knowledge of his real name, address, physical appearance, the details of his employer or even his religion was an exquisite piece of fieldwork done by the police team headed by SI Arvind Kumar.
Use of criminal forensics and technical data were other high points in the out-of-the-ordinary investigation conducted in the case. Careful collection of evidence from the spot where the male and female victims were found, from the interior of the bus and elsewhere, and the use of DNA matching of blood, hair, saliva, the matching of bite marks on Nirbhaya’s body with the dental casts of Ram Singh and Akshay; the use of cellular data to establish that the accused and the victims were together in the bus on the route it took; the CCTV footage from Select City mall to show that the couple had seen a movie there and had left by 8.30 pm on 16 December; the CCTV footage from Hotel Delhi Airport to prove that the bus had passed it twice within a span of nineteen minutes; the dying declarations of Nirbhaya; the testimony of the eyewitness and the medico-legal experts, all made it a watertight case. Pleas taken by the accused in their defence were countered with irrefutable physical and scientific evidence at every stage.
The trial concluded on 9 September 2013 holding the accused guilty of, amongst other things, rape, armed dacoity and murder. They were all sentenced to death, except for the juvenile who was sent to a reformatory for three years. The verdict was, subsequently, upheld by the Delhi High Court on 13 March 2014 and the Supreme Court on 5 May 2017. On 10 March 2013, Ram Singh, the prime accused, committed suicide in Tihar Jail. Until then, he was an undertrial and had been held in judicial custody. The remaining four, namely, Pawan, Vinay, Akshay and Mukesh, await hanging.
A closer look at the social background of the rapists is revealing. They all come from more or less the same kind of social milieu. They are all migrants from the Indian countryside; unskilled or at best semiskilled; poorly educated or not educated at all; in search of employment; surviving by doing petty jobs that give them just about enough to put some food on their tables, and ironically, money to recharge their mobile phones; they are all unmarried or separated from their families and therefore sex-starved.
This class of deprived men live in cities, dazzled by the wealth they see around them — sleek cars, shiny malls, palatial homes, super deluxe hotels and, most appealing to them, young girls smartly turned out. This is not only true of the capital city but of every metropolitan city in India. At some level, we have to recognise this reality of the stark juxtaposition of the two classes and the dangers that inevitably emerge from it. Police forces in such cities, contrary to public expectation, find it difficult to be omnipresent at all times to prevent sexual crimes by such brutes.
In this case, the victim’s father was also a migrant from a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, who moved to the city in the early 1980s in search of employment. He took up sundry jobs until he was engaged as a loader at the Delhi international airport. He married soon after and the couple had three children — Nirbhaya, the eldest, followed by two sons. Nirbhaya performed well academically and aspired to be a neurosurgeon. However, she settled for a more affordable four-year course in physiotherapy in Dehradun. She graduated with flying colours and was awaiting placement when the tragedy struck. Nirbhaya represents an aspirational India that wishes to make a mark by dint of hard work, education and acquiring skills. She will be remembered not only as the victim of a horrific crime but also as an aspirational Indian woman, whose life was cut short by ruthless criminals.
(Extracted with permission from Khaki Files by Neeraj Kumar, published by Penguin Random House)