HC raps Maharashtra police for laxity in tracing missing woman

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Mumbai, Jun 11 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Tuesday pulled up the Maharashtra police for its "superficial" probe in tracing a woman who went missing after she went to Rajasthan three months ago, leaving her baby behind.

A division bench of Justices Bharati Dangre and Manjusha Deshpande directed the superintendent of police, Kolhapur, to coordinate with his counterpart in Jalod, Rajasthan and ensure that the woman is traced and produced in court on June 20.

The bench remarked that it was "unbelievable that police machinery of two states, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, were unable to trace a woman".

The bench was hearing a habeas corpus (produce person in court) petition filed by the woman's husband from Kolhapur.

The man claimed that his wife was detained by her father as he disapproved of their inter-caste marriage.

As per the plea, the couple tied the knot in February 2022 and had a baby boy in November 2023.

In February this year, the woman was informed by a family member that her father was unwell and wished to see her.

The woman went to Rajasthan to meet her father, leaving her infant son with her husband. However, when she did not return, and when he could not contact her, the man filed a police complaint and then a plea in court.

Last month, the high court had directed the Kolhapur police to visit Rajasthan to track her whereabouts.

On Tuesday, the police's advocate informed the court that the police visited the woman's residence in Rajasthan but did not find her.

The police recorded the statement of the woman's grandparents, who were in the house, and the neighbours.

The bench, however, said just recording the grandparents' statements was not enough.

"The police have to be told how to inquire? Grandfather said she's not there, so you came back?" the court said.

The bench said the police should be considerate of the infant, who was without his mother for three months.

"It is difficult to believe that the police of two states have been unable to find the girl. It's unbelievable. Your (police) methodology is simple. You go and ask the grandparents. Is this the way? Since when the police have become polite?" the bench asked.

"After the court order, the phones (of the woman and her parents) are switched off. You don't know how to trace that? I thought the Maharashtra police was the best. Have mercy on the three-month-old child without a mother," the court said. PTI SP ARU