Two policemen, charged with the death of a tribal girl in an alleged fake encounter in 2011, were acquitted by a court in Chhattisgarh despite “ample suspicion” as the prosecution failed to submit strong evidence against the accused. The acquittal of the two cops was greeted with shock and grief by the girl’s family, who say that they don’t have the means to pursue the case further.
“Despite there being ample suspicion of the commission of the offence by the accused, the court could not convict the accused solely on the account of improper investigation resulting in deficiency of evidence, which was necessary to convict the accused,” Raipur Session judge Shobhna Koshta said while acquitting the two cops – Dharmdutt Dhaniya and Jeevan Lal Ratnakar.
Dharmdutt Dhaniya is presently posted with National Security Guard (NSG) and Jeevan Lal Ratnakar is working as a constable with Chhattisgarh armed police.
16-year-old Meena Khalkho was killed in an encounter by a joint team of Balrampur district police and Chhattisgarh Armed Force near Chando village of Balrampur district on July 5, 2011. While police had claimed that she was a Maoist, villagers had said the girl was gangraped and murdered by police.
Her post-mortem had confirmed injuries to her private parts, the presence of semen on her clothes, and the possibility of multiple intercourses.
Following a public uproar, a judicial commission headed by District Judge was set up to probe the incident.
In her report in 2015, Justice Anita Jha has confirmed that a police bullet had killed Meena, and also raised serious questions on the police’s claims of and an encounter and the fact that the minor girl was a Naxalite. The 45-page report tabled in the state assembly rejected the police version that she was a Maoist and held that she was “killed by a police bullet”, and the injuries on her body suggested “forced sexual intercourse with her”.
The commission recommended that the government order another investigation, following which the state’s Crime Investigation Department lodged a fresh case under sections 302 (murder) and 34 (common intention) of IPC into the case. Later 3 police personnel including Dharmdutt Dhaniya, Jeevan Lal Ratnakar and Chando station incharge Nikodin khes ( who died during the trial) were booked under IPC 302.
The tribal girl’s family says that they are tired of the legal battle. “The policemen shot and killed her after rape, but we can only remember her, what else we can do,” Meena’s mother Gutiyari Khalkho told NDTV.
Meena’s sister-in-law Kalwanti Khalkho said, “That day she had gone to her friend’s house, we thought that it’s dark so she must have stopped at her friends house but next day we got to know she was killed. They raped and killed her and later branded her a maoist. They should have been punished, but we don’t have the means to pursue the case now”.