MUMBAI: Bombay high court on Monday told Mumbai crime branch to respond to a petition seeking adding of criminal charges of rape and sexual assault against Sunil Kulkarni, leader of Shifu Sunkriti, an alleged cult group.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a Malad chartered accountant and his wife who alleged that their daughters had come under the influence of the group, which operates on social media, and was a “sex and drugs racket”. The couple sought the transfer of the probe in the case to an independent agency, like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), expressing “dissatisfaction” with steps taken by crime branch.
A division bench of Justices Rajendra Savant and Sandeep Shinde told crime branch to consider allegations of parents and check if there was material evidence to add rape charges under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code against Kulkarni. The court has scheduled the matter for hearing on Tuesday.
Additional public prosecutor Aruna Pai said a deputy commissioner of police was monitoring the investigations by crime branch and would carry out further investigations.
The couple had first approached court earlier in March, claiming that their daughters, a 23-year-old law student and a 21-year-old architecture student, had left home and were entrapped by the group. Following HC directions, Malad police launched investigations and arrested Kulkarni. In June, police filed a charge-sheet and booked Patil for offences of obscenity and forgery under IPC and under Information Technology Act for publishing obscene material in an electronic form. No charges of human-trafficking or sexual assault, as demanded by the parents, were invoked.
Advocate Sandesh Patil, counsel for the parents, said the charge-sheet was “unsatisfactory” as they had “diluted” the case against Kulkarni. The petition said investigations were carried out by male police officers. “Owing to the case’s sensitivity and tender age of the girls, there should have been a female investigation officer dealing with the matter,” said the petition. They contended that police had limited their investigation to the economic angle and had not probed allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation.
As carried in TOI on 13/9/2017