Mystery shrouds case of missing married woman

Her parents wanted to sell her. She defied them and eloped with her young lover whom she married. Today he is an accused in a case on the charge of kidnapping her. While the country's legal system has taken note of the young couple's plight, there is one hurdle. She is missing; and if alive, her life could be in danger.

She was 19 when she eloped from her home on February 3, 2011, with her lover Prem Raj, belonging to another caste. Determined to have her back, her father Kaushal Singh petitioned the Delhi High Court stating that his 15-year-old daughter had been kidnapped, his finger of suspicion pointing to Prem Raj.

After an FIR was registered and a nationwide hunt launched for them, the couple surrendered. For all her protestations, the girl was released to her father by a Child Welfare Committee.

The implications of the CWC's decision unfolded in a Sessions court here this past week when the State vs Prem Raj case was taken up for hearing. The girl was “found” to be missing.

Her father provided no conclusive answers to her whereabouts and the police are desperately hunting for her.

Recognising the seriousness of the matter, Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau has decided to hear the case on a day-to-day basis and directed the Delhi Government to probe the Child Welfare Committee's actions. The Delhi Police Commissioner has been ordered to depute a senior officer to monitor the probe as the girl's life could be in danger.

It is nearly a year since the lovers surrendered to the law and order machinery. On March 11 last, the girl communicated to the SHO of Delhi's Bharat Nagar police station that she was a major, aged 20, competent to take her own decisions, and had got married to Prem on February 23, 2011, at the Arya Samaj Mandir in Rana Pratap Bagh. She also annexed photographs of her marriage and complained that her father and family were threatening her and her in-laws.

Prem Raj surrendered in a magistrate's court and was sent to police custody on March 16, 2011. A day later, the girl was presented in court and sent to the custody of a Children's Home for Girls to be produced before a Child Welfare Committee. This was after she pleaded not to be sent to her parents. In her statement she said her parents were threatening to kill her and that she had eloped and got married because they planned to sell her.

But despite the magistrate's directions to keep her in a home for girls, she was released to her father. A report submitted by the Superintendent of the girls' home on Saturday said she was released to the father on the directions of the CWC. Vindicating the girl's claim that she was a major, her ossification test result, which was received some time after that court hearing, showed her age to be between 18 and 19.

Three days ago, when ASJ Kamini Lau took up the matter for hearing, neither the young woman nor her father showed up in court. Smelling something fishy, Ms. Lau wondered why a charge sheet was filed against Prem Raj for kidnapping and compelling the girl to marry despite the ossification report on her age and the girl's own statement before the magistrate that she left her home and married him of her own free will.

The SHO of Bharat Nagar told the court that he sent a police team to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh where Kaushal Singh claimed to have sent the girl, but she was not found there. On Saturday the police told the court that they are tracing calls from some mobile phone numbers.