Cops drop rape charge in Juhu child molestation case

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 20 Januari 2013 | 22.23

MUMBAI: The Juhu police on Saturday dropped the rape charge in the case against conductor Ramesh Rajput, 35, who has been arrested for sexually assaulting a four-year-old kindergarten student from a premier Juhu school in a moving school bus on Tuesday. Rajput continues to face the other charges, which include Section 3 (penetrative sexual assault) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, under which the maximum sentence can be seven years to life in prison.

The medical exam did not support a rape charge and police felt such a case might fall through in court, said cops on Saturday. "We submitted a report to drop the rape charge from the case and the court accepted our request," said additional commissioner of police (West) Vishwas Nangre-Patil. "However, the section of the newly introduced act continues in the case and that is equally stringent."

In another development, the police are flummoxed by the flip-flop of the woman attendant, who the school said was on the bus at the time of the sexual assault. The woman first told cops on Friday that no male conductor was on the bus when the girl was being dropped home.

Later, in line with the school's version, she said Rajput was present and she stopped him from sexually assaulting the girl. Cops are unsure if the woman was on the bus and say they may make her give a statement to a magistrate to sort out the confusion.

The police said they have collected the call records of the lady attendant as well as the accused so they can trace their respective locations on the day of the offence. An officer said the woman attendant's statement is crucial in the case.

A police officer said the rape section had been initially applied mainly to ensure that the accused did not get bail easily. After discussing the issue with seniors and legal experts, the police decided to drop it. The police added that the arrested conductor has not admitted to any crime and is not cooperating with investigators.

Rajput, a Vile Parle resident, is charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty). He is also charged under sections 3 (penetrative sexual assault), 7 (sexual assault) and 12 (sexual harassment of a child) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The new act is more victim-friendly and bars a direct meeting between the victim and accused.

On Tuesday, he allegedly molested the girl in a bus, which was dropping KG students home from school. The girl later told her father about the incident and he alerted the school on Wednesday, after which the school took the girl for a medical test. The school took Rajput, the driver and the lady attendant to the cops on Thursday, when Rajput was arrested.

The Juhu school, which is now looking into using CCTV on its buses, has written to parents of students informing them of the incident. "We have over 4,000 email IDs on record in the school database. We've tried to reach as many of them as possible," said a statement released by the school on Saturday evening. The statement said the school gave information about the incident and how the school responded.

The school has also written in the emails that, from Monday onwards, a lady school staff member will accompany kids on all school buses in addition to the lady attendant.

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