India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) might charge the families of two teenage girls who were found hanging from a tree in a village in northern India in May with destruction of evidence, local media reports said late Thursday. The news follows the agency's conclusion that the two cousins had committed suicide, and not gang-raped or murdered, as originally claimed.
The girls’ fathers have reportedly decided to appeal the agency's findings in the country's apex Supreme Court claiming that authorities are trying to protect the culprits because they belong to rich families from a higher caste. The CBI, which took over the case from local police in June, said that after reviewing “40 scientific reports” it could confirm that the girls, who belonged to a low caste, were not gang-raped. It also said that the autopsy report of the girls were unreliable, NDTV, a local news network, reported. The agency will now reportedly file its final report to the court recommending that the case be closed, local media reports said, citing sources.
"Yes, we have cracked the Badaun case. Our probe found that the two girls had committed suicide and weren't murdered. The local police had erroneously conducted their probe along the lines that the sisters were killed," CBI Director Ranjit Sinha told the Hindustan Times, a local newspaper.
The CBI is also reportedly planning to recommend “departmental action” against officials blamed for botching the investigation, Deccan Chronicle, a local news outlet, reported.
However, the family members of the two girls have rejected the agency’s suicide theory, and have said they are “preparing to fight till the end.”
“After being unable to establish anything even after five months of investigation, the CBI has now unearthed the suicide angle and will file a final report. But we know that the CBI is protecting the accused,” the brother of one of the victims reportedly said.
The CBI, however, claimed that it had come to the conclusion on the basis of forensic reports received from the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory, the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, and the Forensic Science Laboratory, among others.
"We knew from the beginning that the police were destroying evidence against the brothers. This was why we had demanded a CBI inquiry. The two constables on duty had initially refused to locate our daughters. After many hours, they told us the girls were in the orchard located outside the village. I want to ask how they knew this. But the CBI didn't listen,” the father of one of the victims reportedly said.
The two cousins, aged 14 and 15, were found hanging from a tree in Katra, a village in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh state, a day after they disappeared. The incident triggered outrage within India and abroad about the safety of women, and the law and order situation in the country.
The agency had reportedly conducted lie-detector tests on the victims' families and the five suspects, including two police officials. It later decided to exhume the bodies of the victims for a fresh autopsy. However, the CBI delayed the action and later said that it would not exhume the bodies.
"I reject the CBI theory. The investigators are trying to prove that the girls ended their own lives. This smacks of a ploy to give a clean chit to the culprits and police,” former Chief Minister Mayawati reportedly said.