India lawmaker, wife in police custody over maid's death

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A New Delhi court on Wednesday ordered an Indian lawmaker and his wife to be held in police custody over the alleged torture death of a maid at their home.

Dhananjay Singh, a lawmaker from the regional Bahujan Samaj Party, and his dentist wife were arrested late on Tuesday over the death of their 35-year-old maid, Ms Rakhi Bhadra, who had allegedly been brutally assaulted. The case was the latest in a string of reports of impoverished domestic servants being abused by wealthy employers.

"The offences are serious in nature," Judge Dheeraj Mittal said as he ordered the couple to be held in police custody for five days. The maid was alleged to have suffered massive injuries to her head, stomach, arms and chest while working at the couple's house.

The lawmaker's wife Jagriti Singh was being held on suspicion of murder and wrongful confinement after the maid's death. Her husband faces two other murder charges in unrelated cases. He was being held for allegedly destroying evidence by removing surveillance footage from 20 cameras installed in the couple's house, senior Delhi police official Mukesh Kumar Meena told reporters.

The lawmaker earlier denied any wrongdoing over the maid's death, saying he was away at his Uttar Pradesh state constituency at the time of the death. On reaching Delhi, he immediately informed police.

Another servant, a juvenile, "told us that Jagriti had (allegedly) been regularly beating the three domestic helps, including Rakhi over petty issues", police officer Meena said.

According to the servant, the maid was beaten with sticks and antlers for several months and died after being burnt with hot iron rods and kicked repeatedly by the dentist, police said.

Jagriti Singh is the lawmaker's second wife. Police said the couple are in the process of divorcing.

The case comes just months after a teenage Indian maid was rescued from an upscale Delhi home by police and social rights campaigners, who said she had been slashed with knives and mauled by dogs.

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