Even as the government ordered a commission of enquiry to probe the horrific Dec 16 gang rape incident and a controversy spiralled over the death of a policeman in the violent street protests that erupted in the city, the 23-year-old grievously injured gang rape victim was on late Wednesday night flown out of India for treatment in Singapore.
The woman was shifted out of Safdarjung Hospital and flown in an air ambulance to Singapore’s Mt Elizabeth hospital which is renowned for organ transplants, B.D. Athani, the medical superintendent of Safdarjang Hospital, told reporters. The decision was taken after her condition deteriorated, sources said. Her parents are also accompanying her. The young woman, who was admitted to the Safdarjung Hospital on Dec 16, was operated upon thrice and had to have her small intestine removed due to extensive injuries following the brutal torture by the five men and a juvenile who raped her in a moving bus.
Southern superstar Rajnikanth and former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh had been treated in the premier Singapore hospital.
The condition of the victim remained critical even 10 days later, and doctors said she was still on ventilator. On Tuesday she gave a statement to a magistrate – for a second time following complaints of alleged police interference the first time it was recorded Dec 21. The home ministry also ordered a probe into the circumstances in which the first statement was recorded following a complaint by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Delhi Police chief Neeraj Kumar denied charges that police had tried to influence the magistrate.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the commission of enquiry would be headed by retired Delhi High Court judge Usha Mehra. She would submit her report in three months. ‘The inquiry will reconstruct the whole incident, identify lapses on the part of police or any other authority and fix responsibility for such lapses and negligence,’ he said. ‘The steps are being taken with the serious intent to find a lasting solution to the problem (of rape) that plagues all metros and other towns of India… That it’s happening in Delhi is a matter of shame,’ he said.
On the controversy surrounding the death of constable Subhash Chand Tomar, Chidambaram said the matter was under investigation. There have been claims and counter claims over the circumstances leading to the death of Tomar. Two witnesses and a senior doctor maintained that the 47-year-old collapsed on his own and was not attacked by a mob — as claimed by police.
Police quoted the post-mortem as saying that Tomar suffered multiple injuries on his body. Delhi Police say Tomar died after being badly beaten up near India Gate during massive street protests Sunday demanding justice for the gang-rape victim and tougher anti-rape laws. ‘He was brought here in a total collapsed stage. He had already suffered a cardiac arrest and had almost no pulse,’’ Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital Medical Superintendent T.S. Sidhu told the media.
Two witnesses appeared on television to say Tomar collapsed while running. Yogendra, a young man who claimed he saw the policeman fall, said Tomar collapsed while chasing the protesters on a street leading to India Gate. ‘He wasn’t assaulted or trampled. He fell on his own while chasing the crowd. In fact many protesters came to help him,’ he said. Pauline, who was present when Tomar collapsed and went to his aid, said that there were no visible injuries on the constable.
Police waved the post-mortem report that said Tomar had suffered multiple injuries on the neck and chest. ‘The cardiac arrest was precipitated by injuries to his body parts,’ Additional Commissioner of Police K.C. Dwivedi told reporters. Delhi Police has shifted the probe into Tomar’s death to the Crime Branch. Police arrested eight people Sunday night for the alleged attack on Tomar but they were granted bail the next day.
Chidambaram ruled out removing Delhi Police chief Neeraj Kumar, who has come under flak for the police crackdown on anti-rape protesters which had sparked widespread anger. The minister said it would be ‘inappropriate’ to axe Kumar ‘at this stage’. ‘I think the commissioner has … apologized for any lapses that may have hurt any innocent person,’ the minister said.