Hyderabad: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken up a challenging task of digging culprits behind a 12-year-old rape and murder case in Vijayawada of Andhra Pradesh. Based on directions from a CBI court last month, a CBI team led by superintendent of police Vimal Adiya conducted re-postmortem on the body of the victim, a B. Pharmacy student, on Saturday.

The victim’s kin and relatives first objected to digging out her body from a crematorium at Tenali town as that is against their religious faith, but finally agreed to the process on the assurance of CBI officials that the real culprits behind their daughter’s rape and murder would be nabbed. Hundreds of people gathered at the burial ground while the re-postmortem was done.

This case assumes significance as one Satyam Babu, a 30-year-old youth, was first sentenced for a life imprisonment after a lower court held him guilty for her rape and murder. But he was acquitted by the High Court in March 2017 after serving nearly eight years in jail, when full facts were placed before it.   

The victim, a 17-year-old graduate, used to stay in a women’s hostel at Ibrahimpatnam near Vijayawada for her studies at Nimra Pharmacy College. On the fateful night of 27 December 2007, some unknown miscreants abducted her while she was returning from the college and raped and murdered her on the same night. College students not only in Vijayawada, but all over combined Andhra Pradesh staged loud protests denouncing the rape and murder and there were allegations that a grandson of a former minister from the area was one of the accused. The police, who investigated the case, didn’t find any evidence against the politician’s kin, but framed charges against Satyam Babu, a local youth.

There was unrest after Satyam Babu was acquitted by the High Court as students and general public from Vijayawada and surrounding areas were keen on knowing the real culprits in the case. Several petitions were filed in different courts, seeking yet another probe to find out those who raped and murdered the pharmacy student. The Andhra Pradesh High Court heard the case afresh last year.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court in January 2019 ordered for a CBI probe to re-investigate the case and a special court allowed the sleuths to conduct a re-postmortem on her body now. A team of forensic experts on Saturday conducted fresh tests on the skull and bones of the victims and collected DNA samples. There were charges that the local police had tampered with the forensic reports immediately after the first post-mortem.

Now that Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress government is keen on solving the murder mystery behind this case; all eyes are on the CBI investigation. Sources from the CBI in Hyderabad told this newspaper that the real challenge to the agency was to find out if there were any interventions in the investigation at any stage. Building the whole sequence of events in the crime and probing from the early stages might be a tough task, but CBI officials are confident of solving the case as enough preliminary investigation was already done. The cops are expected to interrogate Satyam Babu to take his cooperation in the case, an official said.

Mother of the victim told the waiting media persons at the re-postmortem site on Saturday that her daughter was raped and murdered just because she was a witness to unsocial activities involving women and some men at her hostel. “They killed my daughter just because they thought that she would reveal their heinous illegal activities; there were children of some powerful politicians too,” she said.

The mother, a retired teacher, expressed her sorrow that the local police had destroyed all evidence at the scene of crime where her daughter was murdered 12 years ago. “I demand that my daughter’s case should be investigated by the just enacted Disha Act (by the Andhra Pradesh government) which stipulates punishment to the guilty within 21 days after the crime,” she said.