Too many theories have been floated in the case of 7-year-old student Pradyumn Thakur’s murder at Gurugram’s Ryan International School. The victim’s family outright dismissed the Haryana Police’s investigation, and filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding a CBI inquiry and stringent safety guidelines for schools. On 15 September, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar announced the transfer of the case to the CBI.
The Quint spoke to a few former CBI and IPS officers to analyse the Haryana Police’s investigation so far. Earlier, the top cop of Haryana Police had told The Quint that they had evidence to establish that the bus conductor, Ashok Kumar, was present inside the toilet where the murder took place, including CCTV footage placing him there and eyewitness testimonies.
What’s the Evidence?
According to the police, one of the key witnesses is the gardener who saw the conductor exiting the toilet. But, the gardener’s testimony before the media belies the police’s claim, raising several doubts about the credibility of the investigation – to the media, the gardener had stated that he never, in fact, saw the conductor exiting the toilet. He said that he saw him only after a crowd had gathered around Pradyumn’s body.
I went to drink water from a water cooler installed near the toilet. Some children were shouting ‘please call Anju madam’. That’s when I saw the bus conductor coming from the direction of the main gate. Kumar’s clothes didn’t have any blood stains on them.Harpal, school gardener
Police had also claimed that two schoolchildren of Ryan International saw the conductor entering the toilet. Apart from the investigators, no one knows who these children are – as is common in the case of child testimonies. So, verifying this claim is impossible.
The forensic report on the murder weapon, an eight-inch knife, Kumar claims he took with him to the toilet, is still awaited.
The only evidence left is the CCTV footage on the basis of which the police zeroed in on this particular conductor. According to experts, the CCTV footage will act as a strong circumstantial evidence against the conductor as the last-seen person, as it shows both Pradyumn and the bus conductor entering the toilet; first the conductor, followed by the child.
But, there are several missing links in the investigation.
Where’s the Motive to Murder a 7-Year-Old?
Initially, the police said that the conductor attempted to sexually assault the child. When he resisted, the conductor murdered him. After the arrest, Kumar, in his confessional statement before the media, admitted he had sexually assaulted the child.
Subsequently, however, the postmortem report offered no evidence of any attempt of sexual assault, and legally speaking, the conductor’s confessional statement is inadmissible in a court of law as it could have been made under duress. The confession is only admissible when it is made before a magistrate.
The postmortem doctor also categorically told The Quint that apart from two slits on Pradyumn’s neck, there weren’t any other injuries or bruises on his body. There was no evidence of resistance or struggle. So, the Haryana Police’s theory on the motive takes a nosedive.
Not Sexual Assault But Masturbation
From sexual assault, the police switched to another motive, saying that the child had caught the conductor masturbating inside the toilet, which led him to murder him. Now, is this motive strong enough to sustain in court? Can fear of school authorities finding out he was masturbating in the school be a motive to murder a 7-year-old?
Had Pradyumn complained to school authorities about catching the conductor masturbating, what would have happened? The school authorities would either have given the conductor a warning, or sacked him from his position. Certainly, he wouldn’t be prosecuted or face life imprisonment.
Considering the above argument, isn’t the motive of murder, as told by the police, too far-fetched?
Pradyumn’s father’s lawyer doesn’t buy it.
When a man is masturbating inside a washroom stall, his body posture and his movements will not be very obvious. It is unlikely that such a position could startle a 7-year-old to the extent of raising an alarm.Sushil Teqriwal, Pradyumn’s father’s lawyer
Was the Murder Premeditated Or Spur-of-the-Moment?
According to the police, the conductor carried the murder weapon – an eight-inch knife – into the washroom to clean it. The knife was apparently kept in the bus inside a tool kit. The bus driver, however, has already denied this by saying that he never saw any knife inside the tool kit.
Police claimed that the murder was spur-of-the-moment because the boy had caught the conductor by surprise.
In his confession to the media, the conductor had claimed that when Pradyumn saw him and screamed, he had pushed him so hard that the child had hit the commode. How is it then that the child didn’t sustain any injury?
But, the postmortem report suggests otherwise. The report says that the child was taken by surprise, as there was no sign of resistance or any other injury on his body.
The murderer had held the child from behind when he slit his throat twice. The murderer’s action seems to be more premeditated than spur-of-the-moment.Dr Deepak Mathur, chief medical officer
Was The Conductor Hired To Murder The Child?
According to former CBI and IPS officers, why the conductor felt the need to carry a knife into the toilet is something that should be thoroughly investigated. The incident, they say, also occurred in a suspiciously short span of time, when there was not a single eyewitness present.
Carrying a knife and no eyewitnesses in the case hints that it was a planned murder. The murderer thought that he would be able to get away. But, the CCTV footage probably nailed him.Former senior CBI officer
Now the question is, if it was planned, then why did the conductor murder a 7-year-old? Definitely not because of any personal enmity, was he then acting on someone’s instructions?
The police should do a background check of the conductor and scan his call records to find out whether he was acting on someone’s instructions. Was he hired by someone because of easy accessibility to the child?Former senior CBI officer
Is the Police Protecting Someone?
Here are a few facts that are not in dispute:
- Pradyumn reached the school at 7.55 am and was murdered within 15 minutes or less of his arrival. The father’s call logs verify this fact as he received a call from the school’s office at 8.10 am.
- Pradyumn was murdered inside the school toilet, as CCTV footage confirms.
Now, if the presence of the conductor inside the toilet during that time is established by the CCTV footage, as claimed by the police, then all the agencies need to do is find the motive of the murder.
But, it is this very motive that is proving slippery for the investigators to find, with false starts and contradictory statements.