Supreme Court orders Unnao cases to be transferred to Delhi

The top court transferred all five cases linked to the Unnao rape case involving now-expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar out of Uttar Pradesh to Delhi. The top court also ordered the Yogi Adityanath government to pay a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the rape survivor, who met with an "accident" on Sunday and continues to be critical. The top court said the CBI's probe into the car crash must be completed in seven days and trial in the four other cases, including the rape case, in 45 days from when it begins

On July 28, Sunday, at around 1 PM, a car was crossing Sultanpur Kheda village on Raebareli-Unnao road (National Highway 232) in Uttar Pradesh. It was raining heavily. Suddenly there was a bang, which was louder than the rain that was lashing the highway.

A truck cruising from the opposite side rammed into the car. Such was the impact of the collision that the truck dragged the car to some distance before coming to a halt.

The truck driver fled from the scene while two of the four passengers in the car died. Eye witnesses of this accident said many accidents have occurred on this particular stretch in the past.

But this accident was unusual for two reasons -- the girl who has alleged that Kuldeep Singh Sengar, now expelled BJP MLA from Bangarmau in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, had raped her in 2017, when she was a minor, was one of the passengers travelling in the car, and the number plate of the truck that rammed into the car was smeared with black paint.

While the victim and her lawyer, Mahendra Singh, who was driving the car, sustained serious injuries, her maternal and paternal aunts died in the accident. Both, the victim and her lawyer, are admitted in King George's hospital in Lucknow and continue to be in "critical but stable" condition. The family was on its way to meet the victim's uncle who is lodged in Raebareli jail.

"The truck was cruising at 100 kms and went out of control when it rammed into the car. Thankfully it didn't collide into the small tea stalls on the road. Otherwise more people would have died," said Ram Vilas Yadav, 55, a shopkeeper who was present there when the collision happened.

Ramesh Chand, another eyewitness, said: "The thud was so loud that I felt the roof of my shop had collapsed."


Kuldeep Singh Sengar and the alleged rape

An influential man, Sengar has been an MLA for 16 years and has switched between three parties since 2002 – Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. He is currently lodged in Sitapur Jail.

The Unnao rape case made headlines in April last year when the victim threatened to set herself on fire outside Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath's residence, alleging police inaction in the case. She alleged that Sanger raped her on June 4, 2017 at his residence when she went to him along with a relative to look for a job.

Facing the heat in Parliament, the BJP on Thursday expelled Sengar from the party.

Was it an accident?

On April 3, 2018, the victim's father was also beaten up allegedly by the MLA's brother Atul Singh and others in the village. He was sent to jail on various charges as well as under the Arms Act. On April 8, his condition deteriorated inside Unnao jail and he died in custody.

The girl's maternal uncle has alleged that the accident was a conspiracy and has blamed the BJP MLA's associates. He has said that the fact that truck's number plate was smeared with black paint raises suspicion.

Shailendra Yadav, 22, an electrician, who owns a shop on this stretch, said: "The truck driver was driving very fast. It was raining heavily. The truck rammed into the car."

He added: "The car driver wasn't at fault. The truck went out of control. It went to the other side of the road and collided into the car. It was an empty truck and we all know how fast do these drivers drive."

Arun Kumar, 21, a garage owner, said: "After the collision, the car got dragged backwards. The truck also came to a halt. Many accidents happen on this stretch, but I have never seen such a bad accident before. A woman passenger got flung outside the car. We pulled the injured out of the car, but we couldn't pull the driver out."


Why the black paint?

The driver of the truck fled soon after the collision. He re-appeared after the police arrived.

Atora police station in-charge said: "He was scared that people might beat him up, so he fled. When we asked him why his number plate was smeared with black paint, he informed us that since he couldn't pay back the loan he had taken for the truck, he had smeared the number plate with black paint. The driver had unloaded some goods in Raebareli and was returning hence the truck was empty. The driver said the accident happened because it was raining heavily."

Incidentally, a video which captured moments after the car met with an accident by passers-by showed that at the time of the accident on Sunday evening there were no heavy rains and it was only drizzling.

Another co-incidence is that the owner of truck that hit Unnao rape survivor's car belongs to same district as Sengar's and the truck is owned by brother of Samajwadi Party leader Nandu Pal.

Why weren't the security staffers with her?

Sister of the survivor informed: "Sengar's men were threatening us. They wanted us to take the rape case back. Soon after this, the accident happened. I am convinced that he wanted to get her killed."

The victim was given police protection in mid-2018 after she complained of having received death threats. A male gunner and two women constables were deployed for her round-the-clock security.

On Sunday, the security staffers, however, were not present with her. Unnao SP Madhav Prasad Verma has said in a press conference that the victim's family had declined to take the security staff along with them due to lack of space in the car. Four days later, on Thursday, the three security personnel were suspended.

A relative of the Unnao rape survivor said that the family had sent 35 written complaints to the local police and administration in the past one year expressing fear that they would be targeted by the henchmen of the jailed BJP MLA. However, no action was taken by the police.

The Supreme Court on July 31 took suo motu cognisance of a letter written by the family of the Unnao rape case survivor on July 12 to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on threats received from the accused persons. The letter came to light almost two days after a truck collided with her car, causing serious injuries to her and her lawyer.

Pic: Abhishek Verma Pic: Abhishek Verma

The CBI angle

The case was soon transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). A 12-member team of CBI has started investigating the Unnao rape victim's accident.

The son-in-law of a UP minister and nine others have been booked on murder charges after the car crash killed two aunts of the survivor and left her critically injured. Uttar Pradesh minister Ranvendra Pratap Singh's son-in-law Arun Singh was named along with BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in the FIR registered on July 29.

The final twist

The Supreme Court on Thursday transferred all five cases linked to the case out of Uttar Pradesh to Delhi. The top court also ordered the Yogi Adityanath government to pay a compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the survivor.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, also said the CBI's probe into the car crash must be completed in seven days and trial in the four other cases, including the rape case, in 45 days from when it begins. An extension of seven days can be given in the investigation of the crash, if required, the court said.

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