India's women's minister accuses police of incompetence over handling of probe into horrific rape, murder

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the rape and murder of a law student in Kerala, India, on May 11, 2016.
Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the rape and murder of a law student in Kerala, India, on May 11, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian women's minister on Tuesday (May 17) accused the police and forensic experts of incompetence over the brutal rape and murder of a young student, a case that echoed the 2012 gang-rape of a Delhi student that sparked mass protests.

Women's and Children's Minister Maneka Gandhi accused police of dithering in their investigation into the attack on the student, which was so vicious that she was found lying in blood, her intestines hanging out.

Ms Gandhi said an independent probe into the case by India's national commission for women found glaring problems with the way in which forensic experts were handling the assault. "The crime scene had been contaminated on all fundamental levels," Ms Gandhi told reporters in New Delhi of the probe's findings.

The postmortem had been conducted by a junior staff member, the investigation found, and the suspected murder weapon improperly handled by numerous people, the minister said.

The 30-year-old law student from the lowest Dalit caste was killed late last month in her home in southern Kerala state, sparking protests.

The attack drew comparisons with the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012, which shone a global spotlight on frightening levels of sexual violence against women.

It led to an overhaul of India's rape laws, including the speeding up of trials, tougher penalties for offenders and improved policing, but high numbers of assaults persist.

Ms Gandhi said she was concerned about the way in which forensic experts were still handling such cases three years after the death of the Delhi student.

"One of the things that should emerge from this is the need for strengthening of forensics."

Ms Gandhi said the Kerala victim's family had complained to the police before her death of threats and harassment from neighbours and others.

"They (police) were told they were going to be raped, they were told they were going to be killed, they had reported it to the police and the police said just go away," Ms Gandhi said.

She said she feared police were dragging out the case because of the political implications in opposition-Congress ruled Kerala, which has been holding state elections.

Kerala police have said they detained three people for questioning over the attack.

The minister made the comments as she released an overhaul of policies for women including increased measures to halt violence and stem high levels of trafficking of women and children.

The most recent official figures show that 36,735 rapes were reported across the country in 2014, although activists say the true number is likely much higher, with many crimes going unreported due to the social stigma they attract.