Bikaner hostel rape case: Rajasthan court awards life sentence to main accused, convicts two others

A 17-year-old Dalit girl was found dead in a water tank at her hostel in Rajasthan’s Bikaner district in 2016

POCSO CourtImage

A POCSO court in Bikaner, Rajasthan has convicted all accused persons in the horrific rape of a 17-year-old Dalit girl, who was found dead at her hostel in Nokha, Bikaner in Rajasthan. The main accused Vijendra Singh (physical trainer in the institute), has been awarded the life sentence and the warden Pragya Shukla and the Principal, Priya Prateek Shukla of the Jain Adarsh Teacher Training Institute for girls have been imprisoned for 6 years.

Vijendra was already in judicial custody, and has been convicted of sections 305 (abetment of suicide of a child) 363 (punishment for kidnapping), 366 (Kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, etc.), 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, sections 5 (aggravated penetrative sexual assault) and 6 (punishment of aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. He has also been convicted under the relevant sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 2012.

The warden, Pragya Shukla and the Principal, Priya Prateek Shukla (who are out on bail) have been held guilty of abetment of suicide and relevant sections of the POCSO and SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The victim’s counsel, Bajrang Chhimpa, told SabrangIndia that the defense team tried to persuade the court to award less sentence time but he was convinced that the court would bring them to justice. He added, “There were about 34 witnesses that were examined. This hearing has taken 5 years, 6 months and 12 days.”

Background of the case

The 17-year-old Dalit girl, who was studying to be a teacher, was raped and murdered in 2016. On the morning of March 29, her body was found in the water tank of her hostel under suspicious conditions. The Nokha police officials took her body in a municipal garbage carrying vehicle (tractor) without video-graphing it.

As per the FIR filed by her parents, there were only four girls at the hostel, as all the other girls had gone home. A day before, on the evening of March 28, at 8 P.M, she had called her father and told him that her warden, Priya Shukla, had sent her to the trainer Vijendra Singh’s room, with the excuse of cleaning the hostel.

The victim’s family members had submitted a complaint to the police accusing the teacher Vijendra Singh of raping her, killing her and then discarding her body in the water tank. Thereafter, the story of the suicide was concocted in a bid to mislead the administration.

The investigating officer, Satnam Singh had alleged that they found that on the night of March 28, 2016, at around 2 A.M, the victim was found to be in Vijendra’s room. Both had admitted to their ‘mistake’ and had also written an ‘apology.’ The IO also said that the knowledge of their relationship had come to light 2 to 3 months before her death. The IO said that we are trying to get details of this from the mobile phones. 

As per a SabrangIndia report, investigation was conducted on April 1, 2016 by a Rajasthan based Fact Finding Team of the National Human Rights Organisation (NHRO) that concluded that the victim had not died by suicide. Their findings were:

1. If after the March 28, 2016 incident, Priya Shukla, her husband and other staff members had — instead of shrouding it in secrecy (and only believing the PT Teacher Vijendra Singh’s version) immediately informed responsible persons from institution and the police, a death could have been avoided.

2. The allocation of a room for a male PT Teacher within a Girls Hostel is a grave act of irresponsibility on the part of the administration and management.

3. On March 29, 2016 at about 7 A.M when the victim’s absence was intimated to Priya Shukla for the second time, her duties as a hostel warden required that she should have immediately informed responsible authorities of the institution, including the principal. Her not doing so raises serious questions and raises grave suspicion(s).

4. The water tank in which the deceased was found dead has a depth of six feet. Significantly, the tank is fully covered; only a 1.5-foot X 1.5-foot hole exists which has a lid on top.  The lid has a hole for a lock and an old lock was seen by the team on the lid. But it was not locked. Not locking the tank is an act of grave responsibility on the part of the warden, principal and chairman of the institution.

5. From the size of the opening on the tank, it is highly unlikely that a healthy young woman of 5 foot four could have entered inside at all.

6. The fact that the police did not record the recovery of the body through videography deepens suspicions. Neither was a panchnama of the body performed.

7. After the body was removed, press reporter Pavan Kumar himself took photos of the body. There were injuries on the body and blood was oozing out of one ear. Bleeding from the ear in a death supposedly caused by drowning does not add up and further raises questions and suspicions.

8. The victim was from a poor Dalit family who had no political backing and support. There is every chance that the authorities and chairman of the Jain Adarsh Vidyalaya will use clout and other means to ensure that the case does not read fruition and justice is not delivered.


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