Prem Raj Rai, the driver of the taxi the student hired along with her two friends, has been arrested. Sikkim Police have booked the 24-year-old driver under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code.
“A case under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012 has also been started against the driver,” Palden Bhutia, sub-divisional police officer of North Sikkim, told HT.
The three girls reached Gangtok on May 13 for a vacation after the result of their Class 12 examination was declared and checked into a hotel run by a relative of one of the girls.
They hired Rai’s taxi on Sunday afternoon to visit the popular tourist spots in and around Gangtok. The driver first took them to Rumtek Monastery and then to Tashi View Point. He then told the girls they could visit some waterfalls in North Sikkim and the girls agreed to go.
According to the statements of the girls, the driver offered them chips, some dumplings and water on the way. The girl, who was sitting in the front seat, ate the stuff but two girls on the rear seat did not.
They told Gangtok Police their friend started feeling drowsy after that and the driver started making physical advances at her. And when they protested, the driver assaulted them and forced them out of the car. He then drove away with their friend.
The two girls said they had to walk for about two kilometres to seek the help of villagers in North Sikkim to trace their friend. They also informed the hotelier at Gangtok, who in turn lodged a complaint in Sadar Police Station in the city.
Police in East Sikkim district then contacted their counterpart in North Sikkim. With the help of locals, personnel from the Phudong Police Station rescued the victim and arrested the driver.
According to locals, the girl had injury marks on her face and neck and was in a state of shock.
Bhutia said the case will be transferred from Gangtok in East District to North Sikkim police as the incident occurred there.
On Monday, the victims lodged a police complaint against the driver in Gangtok. The girls are likely to appear before a magistrate to record their statement on Tuesday.
The incident shocked most in Sikkim, a peaceful state that observed its 41st state day on Monday.