In a setback to Odisha police in the alleged rape and murder case of a 5-year-old girl, a POCSO court on Tuesday ruled that the prime accused is a minor and has to be produced before a Juvenile Justice Board.

On Monday, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which is probing the alleged rape and murder of a 5-year-old girl in Nayagarh district had filed an application at a POCSO court of Nayagarh for narco analysis test of the prime accused. The court pronounced the decision while hearing a petition filed by the parents of the accused claiming that he was a minor on the day of the incident last year.

“Taking into account the age of the accused as per the matriculation certificate and birth certificate, the POCSO court ruled that the accused was a minor and hence needs to be produced before a juvenile justice board,” said public prosecutor Bansidhar Routray.

The court also sent him to Angul Juvenile Home and ordered that hearing on SIT’s plea for a narco test on January 8 by the Juvenile Justice Board.

The Opposition BJP which is demanding a CBI probe into the case, has been accusing SIT chief Arun Bothra of shielding BJD minister Arun Sahoo by arresting the youth. The party has made it a major political issue and organised a padyatra to the village of the victim demanding justice.

Last year on July 14, the 5-year-old daughter of a rickshaw-puller in Nayagarh district, went missing while playing outside. Ten days later, her skeletal remains were discovered in a sack outside their house. The girl’s father alleged that his daughter was killed by one Babuli Nayak, an aide of higher education minister Arun Sahoo.

The victim’s parents also alleged their daughter may have fallen victim to an organ racket which they claimed Nayan ran. With the local police slow to take action, the parents of the girl tried to bring attention to the case by attempting self-immolation outside the Odisha Assembly on November 24. The state government then set up the SIT which claimed that the accused was an 18-year-old youth.

Bothra had also claimed that the accused had strangulated the little girl after failing to sexually assault her. The SIT even subjected him to bone ossification test and claimed he was above 18 years.

Hours after the POCSO court order, the SIT issued a statement saying that as per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 amended after the Nirbhaya case, any accused between the age of 16-18 years would be tried as an adult in the POCSO Court if he is involved in heinous offence.

“Since the present case relates to the most heinous crime the SIT will appraise the JJB to try the accused as an adult under appropriate provision of the law,” the SIT said.

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