Gang-rape culprits still at large in Karnataka

Manipal (Karnataka), June 23 (IANS) Three unidentified men, accused of abducting and allegedly gang-raping a 22-year-old medical student here, are still at large despite a massive search operation by the state police, an official said Sunday.

"We are on the job and doing our best to trace the culprits and locate the autorickshaw in which the victim was abducted from outside her college library that (June 20) night and driven to a secluded spot where the crime was committed," Udupi Superintendent of Police M.B. Boralingaiah told IANS.

A major educational centre, Manipal is 5 km from the famous Udupi temple town on the west coast of the state and about 410 km from Bangalore.

Even as the eight investigation teams, set up to crack the case, have been on the hunt to nab the culprits, police detained a couple of people for questioning on the incident on the basis of clues they collected during the probe.

"We are probing the case from all angles. As we are unable to get details about the incident from the victim as she is still recovering from injury and the trauma she went through, we are following leads we got during the investigation," Boralingaiah said.

As part of the investigation, police have checked about 3,000 of about 8,000 autorickshaws that ply at Manipal, Udupi and surrounding villages and questioned hundreds of auto drivers for information, as one of the three accused is suspected to be an auto driver.

"We have also alerted our counterparts in Mangalore and other towns in the neighbouring districts to look out for an old auto involved in the crime, as its light was damaged and had a small god's idol in it, as hinted by the victim," the police officer said.

Police registered a criminal case Friday against the three unidentified accused, including an auto driver under sections 366 and 376 (abduction and rape) read with 34 (common intent) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on a complaint by the victim to the local police station.

The incident occurred when the victim, a fourth-year student of the Kasturba Medical College, was waiting to hire an auto outside the Manipal University campus gate to return to her flat from the library late Thursday around 11.30 p.m.

"The victim said in the complaint that she was abducted by the accused, driven to an isolated spot and gang-raped after midnight. Though she managed to reach her flat later, she gave the complaint early Friday," Boralingaiah recalled.

Meanwhile, state Home Minister K.C. George rushed to Manipal from Bangalore and reviewed the case investigation with top police officials, including state Additional Director-General of Police (Law & Order) Bipin Gopalakrishnan and Inspector General of Police (western range) Pratap Reddy.

"It is an unfortunate incident and our hearts go out to the victim and her family. We learnt that this is the first of its kind incident to have taken place in the 60-year-old Manipal University," George told reporters after visiting the victim in the Kasturba Gandhi Medical College hospital and meeting her parents, who hail from Thiruvananthapuram.

The minister also assured the agitated students of the medical college and the university that stringent punishment would be meted out to the culprits for committing such a heinous crime.

"Once the accused are nabbed, the case will be tried in the fast track court so that justice is done in the shortest time possible. We will ensure that the culprits get the maximum punishment," George added.

The minister also told Manipal University vice-chancellor Ramdas Pail to enhance security in the campus and install closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in and around the sprawling campus to monitor the movement of people and vehicles.

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