Murder of Receptionist in Uttarakhand Resort: SC Seeks Status Report on Probe

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Uttarakhand government to file a status report on the investigation carried out in the murder of a 19-year-old woman, who worked as a receptionist in a resort owned by the son of a now sacked BJP leader near Rishikesh.

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna, which was hearing a plea filed by a journalist and family members of Ankita Bhandari, the deceased, seeking a CBI probe in the case, asked Deputy Advocate General Jatinder Kumar Sethi to file a status report with regard to the investigation conducted so far.

The victim worked as a receptionist at Vanantara resort near Rishikesh and was allegedly killed by its owner Pulkit Arya, son of a BJP leader Vinod Arya, and his two accomplices after she refused to yield to their pressure to offer “extra services” to a VIP visiting the resort.

Vinod Arya was expelled from the BJP amid mounting protests against Bhandari’s killing.

The three accused including Arya are facing murder charges in the case.

During the hearing, the counsel for the petitioners raised several questions on the way the investigation was conducted and claimed there were several loopholes in the probe carried out by the state police.

Sethi said such petitions demoralise the state police despite having done a good job and bringing charges under sections 302 (murder), 354A (sexual harassment) of the IPC and 5(1) of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act against the three accused.

He asserted while doing a professional job with scientific and forensic tools and maintaining transparency in the investigation which was conducted by an SIT headed by a DIG level woman IPS officer with two additional SP level members and technical support team, the SIT had collected extensive evidence.

Sethi said the statements of seven key witnesses have been recorded before magistrate and digital evidence including CCTV footage, mobile phone data, whatsapp chats etc have been collected.

“The SIT has made a water tight case against the accused and had even sought their narco analysis and polygraph tests, an issue which is pending before the High Court,” he said, and urged the court to not issue notice on the petition and volunteered to file a status report on the probe.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on March 27.

The plea filed by a journalist and the parents of the deceased has challenged the December 21, 2022 order of the Uttarakhand High Court by which it had dismissed their petition for a CBI probe.

The high court had said an SIT is already investigating the case and it should not be doubted.

It had also said no VIP is being shielded as alleged in the petition.

The petition before the high court had alleged that the victim’s room was broken the day her body was recovered and her post-mortem was done without the presence of any female doctor.

The resort was ordered demolished by the state government as public anger mounted.

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