Rahul Sachan, prosecution witness in three rape cases against the self-styled godman and his son, went missing November 25. But an FIR was only lodged a month after his disappearance.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court comprising Justices Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Dr Vijay Laxmi, on August 20, has brought to light how the UP police botched up the protection of a key witness in the rape case against Asaram Bapu and was subsequently lethargic in investigating the witness’s disappearance.
Dr. Rahul K. Sachan, an Ayurvedic practitioner and Asaram’s former personal physician, is a key prosecution witness in the three rape cases against the self-styled godman and his son, Narayan Sai. Sachan was attacked within the precincts of Jodhpur court last year by alleged followers of Asaram. He has been missing since November 25, 2015.
The Wire has previously reported on the case.
Asaram is currently lodged in a Jodhpur jail and his trial for the rape of a minor girl is nearing completion. He has sought the Supreme Court’s intervention to grant him regular bail on medical grounds. The apex court has asked the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, to examine him and submit a report in order to decide whether he should be granted regular bail.
The submission of the report by AIIMS and a subsequent hearing by the Supreme Court is expected in the next few days.
The case of the missing witness
According to the high court’s August 20 order, Sachan was granted a police guard, Vijay Bahadur, by the UP police. Bahadur went on leave for a week on November 21 and constable Amit Kumar Singh from the Reserve Police Lines was posted to replace him.
It was under Singh’s protection that Sachan went missing, but the FIR was only lodged on December 20, 2015, nearly a month after his disappearance.
The investigation proceeded under sub-inspector Vijay Pandey of the Thakurganj police station in Lucknow. Pandey, it appears, had obtained Sachan’s mobile phone call detail records, which indicated his last location on November 25 at Mohalla Mallawan in UP’s Hardoi district.
The high court has found that in spite of this information, the investigating officer, who subsequently took charge on April 9, only went to Hardoi on June 3, over six months after Sachan’s disappearance.
The bench observed:
“We are prima facie, satisfied that this sort of investigation in such a high profile case completely lacks diligence as well as it dilutes the confidence of the public at large in such high profile cases. We are, prima facie, satisfied that the investigation has not been diligently carried out and therefore, this Court may consider grant of relief in the present writ petition for handing over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation.”
On August 20, when the state of UP informed the court that it had constituted a special task force to trace Sachan, the court, according to reports, described it as an eyewash.
Further, the CBI’s counsel indicated to the court its willingness to undertake a fair investigation if the court entrusts the same to it, and sought the full cooperation of the state if the investigation is handed over to it by the court.
The PIL petitioner in the case, Bennet Castelino, who practices law in Mumbai and Auckland, New Zealand, expressed hope that the investigation of the case would be entrusted to the CBI.
The bench is expected to deliver its order requesting the CBI to investigate the case on August 29.