Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022

Ankita Bhandari Case: Three Accused Remanded In Uttarakhand Police SIT Custody, To Be Questioned For 72 Hours

Uttarakhand resort receptionist Ankita Bhandari was found dead last month. The main accused is the son of a veteran BJP leader.

Uttarakhand resort murder case
Uttarakhand resort murder case Photo: PTI

The Special Investigating Team (SIT) of the Uttarakhand Police probing the death of Ankita Bhandari has taken the three accused on remand. 

Bhandari, 19, was a receptionist at a resort in Uttarakhand's Yamkeshwar. She was found dead in Cheela canal near Rishikesh on September 24. She was reported missing six days before by her parents. 

The owner of the resort Pulkit Arya, its manager Saurabh Bhaskar, and assistant manager Ankit Gupta are accused of murdering Bhandari. Arya is the leader of now-expelled veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinod Arya.

Arya, Bhaskar, and Gupta may also be taken to the crime scene to establish the sequence of events, said an official said on the condition of anonymity. 

Revenue police Sub-Inspector Vaibhav Pratap Singh, who is under suspension for dereliction of duty for allegedly not registering an FIR in the case despite being approached, is also being interrogated. Further, the investigating team has recorded the statement of Ankita's friend with whom she had a chat on the day of her murder.

The SIT has constituted five teams to speed up investigation into the case. It has also recovered a mobile phone from the Chilla canal into which Ankita had allegedly been thrown. The phone has been handed over to the forensic team, the official said.

Bhandari's death has sparked widespread outrage across Uttarakhand, which led to violent protests as well. 

Who was Ankita Bhandari?

Ankita Bhandari, 19, was a receptionist in a resort owned by Pulkit Arya, son of BJP leader Vinod Arya, in Uttarakhand's Yamkeshwar.

Bhandari was reported missing by her parents on September 18. Her body was found six days later on September 24 in Cheela canal near Risikesh. Arya and two hotel staffers were arrested in the case on September 23.

Bhandari had been under pressure from Arya to provide 'special services' to guests, Director General of Police Ashok Kumar said, adding that this had been gleaned from her chat with a friend. Earlier, a friend of Bhandari on Facebook reportedly alleged that she was killed because she refused to have sex with guests as demanded by Arya.

Protests over Ankita Bhandari's death

Amid widespread outrage over Bhandari's death, protesters in large numbers took to streets, pelted stones, and blocked roadways.

Protesters demanding justice for Bhandari sat on a dharna on the Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway in Uttarakhand's Srinagar. The blockade lasted for nearly eight hours, leading to a nine-km-long traffic snarl.

Violent protests had erupted in areas surrounding the resort with local people breaking glass panes and some trying to torch a pickle factory on its premises as news of the murder spread.

Crowds also attacked the police car when the accused were being taken to a court in Kotdwar. They smashed the windowpanes of the car and roughed up the three men.

What we know of Ankita Bhandari case's probe so far

Autopsy report of Bhandari said that she was not raped and the cause of her death was drowning. 

However, the report said that she had injuries marks on her which were inflicted before her death.

Following outrage over the case, the Uttarakhand Police formed an SIT to investigate the case. It's headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) P Renuka Devi.

The three accused —resort owner Pulkit Arya, manager Saurabh Bhaskar, assistant manager Ankit Gupta— are in the custody of the SIT. They will be questioned by the SIT for 72 hours, said an official.

"The SIT will interrogate the accused in the Ankita murder case for the next 72 hours. For this, the accused have been taken from the district jail Pauri to some secret place. Considering the sensitivity of the incident, the accused have been taken to a secret place for interrogation by the SIT," district jail Pauri Jailor BP Singh told ANI.  

(With PTI inputs)