Delhi Police on Tuesday virtually hit back at chief minister Sheila Dikshit for accusing the force of "interference" while recording the statement of the 23- year-old rape victim on a day a constable succumbed to his injuries sustained during Sunday's violent protests.
Police's strong response came a day after Dikshit shot off a letter to Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde citing a communication to her by deputy commissioner (east) B M Mishra that sub-divisional magistrate Usha Chaturvedi had complained about senior police officials' interference while she was recording the statement of the victim.
Denying the allegations, city police commissioner Neeraj Kumar said police never forced any questionnaire on the SDM. The SDM had complained that police had told her to ask the victim only from the questionnaire the investigators had prepared.
"It was the police which had insisted that the statement of the girl be recorded as her condition was getting worse with every passing day...Chaturvedi was assigned the job by the divisional commissioner," he said.
The SDM could have refused to record the statement if at any point she had felt pressure from the police, he said.
As soon as Dikshit complained to the home minister on Monday, police immediately sought recording of victim's statement before a metropolitan magistrate, which have more legal value.
"The victim recorded the statement before a judicial magistrate today. This has more evidentiary value," he said.
Constable Subhash Tomar (47), who was wounded during Sunday's protests, succumbed to his injuries at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where he was in ventillator for the past three days. He was cremated in the presence of the chief minister, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and others.
Doctors at Safdarjung Hosptial said the victim's condition was a "shade better than yesterday" as her vital parameters have shown a marginal improvement, but she is still critical and continues to be on ventilator support.
Delhi Police on Tuesday evening eased restrictions near India Gate and Raisina Hill leading to Rashtrapati Bhavan even as small protests were held at Jantar Mantar demanding stringent punishment for those involved in the gangrape and brutal assault of the girl in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16.
Earlier, Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said the force would demand a high-level probe into the "leakage" of chief minister's top secret letter to the Union home minister and how it made to media.
Dikshit has been making a strong pitch of bringing the city police under Delhi government from home ministry's control.
Ever since the public outrage over the incident, the chief minister has made it clear that she cannot be held responsible for actions of police which is not under her government's control.
Police has made known its unhappiness over Dikshit passing on the buck and raking up a "non-issue" at this juncture by writing to Shinde.
Kumar said, "the statement of the rape victim and her mother was recorded. So if the SDM had felt that something was wrong, then why did she record the statement.
"The statement was recorded on December 21 and why after so long on December 24, a complaint came out. And even if the complaint has been filed, then the side of the police should have also been heard. It is unfortunate. Such kind of things affects police investigation. Also the contents have been made known to media also," he said.
Kumar also claimed that they had encountered problems with Chaturvedi earlier on two occasions this year while dealing with cases of two rioting cases in east Delhi.
Rejecting claims that police prevented the videography of the process, he said girl's mother had objected to it as she thought they were media persons as also doctors who felt that presence of more people may lead to infection.
Providing the sequence of events, Kumar said at one stage, they felt that the girl may not pull through and police wanted a statement since only an SDM can record a dying declaration.
"ACP (Vasant Vihar) approached deputy commissioner of New Delhi Neela Mohanan for an SDM but she asked him to approach divisional commissioner as she did not have any woman SDM under her jurisdiction. Then divisional commissioner Dharampal assigned Chaturvedi for the job," he said.
Chaturvedi asked assistant commissioner to meet her near PHQ on December 21 at 6pm initially but later preponed by an hour saying she had orders to record the statement as fast as possible.
"She said she wanted to know the facts of the case and was taken to Vasant Vihar police station where she was briefed about the case and then she was taken to hospital where she recorded the statement," Kumar said.
"She was only supposed to record the statement but not probe the matter," he said.
The chief minister was "very upset" over the contents of the letter sent by the deputy commissioner and decided to write to Shinde seeking a thorough probe into the incident, Delhi government sources said.
The home ministry sources said they are likely to order a probe into the chief minister's complaint. "We are taking the complaint very seriously," a senior ministry official said.