Johannesburg - For two months, Ankit Kalra has been on the run. Accused of sexual assaulting a young Joburg woman earlier this year, the Indian national insisted during his bail application at the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court that he was not a flight risk.
Now, 10 weeks since police launched a manhunt to find him, it appears he managed to escape back to India, and an investigation has been launched against the case’s investigating officer for allegedly helping him flee.
Marinda Wessels* met Kulra in June on a dating app. She told the Saturday Star that their first date had gone well, and she had agreed to visit him for a second date at his home on June 25. While everything seemed to be going well, when she tried to leave, he wouldn’t allow her to.
He eventually forced himself on her, but allowed her to leave moments after the incident. Wessels said it was odd how he had acted normally, even wishing her a good night and saying goodbye as she left his flat. She opened a criminal case against him the following day.
Wessels claimed even opening the case had been a struggle, as police officers at the Sandton SAPS apparently said she shouldn’t do so because she had been on a date. However, she pushed ahead and Kulra was granted R1000 bail at the Alexandra court on June 27. He appeared at the next few court dates, until September 13 when he failed to arrive, prompting the court to issue a warrant of arrest.
Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) who had been attending court since Wessels approached them in June, discovered that Kalra had apparently fled to India.
Ngaatendweishe Murombedzi, an advocacy manager at WMACA, guided the Saturday Star to Kalra’s Facebook page, where he had been posting from a restaurant in Hyderabad, India. On September 29, he posted images of himself and a friend at the restaurant. A Facebook friend posted beneath his check-in at the restaurant: “You didn’t say you going back to india”.
In response, he replied: “Sorry... India's love kind of forced me to come back here.”
Murombedzi said the organisation was furious that Kalra had been so brazen in showing he had fled the country. “As an organisation, we are deeply disappointed in the mishandling of Ms (Wessel’s) matter.
The responsible authorities, being the SAPS and the NPA, should be held accountable for what appears to be clear corruption in this matter.
“It is disheartening that as we approach the onset of 16 Days of Activism, institutions that are put in place to uphold justice for individuals like (Marinda), are the same institutions that are violating the rights of victims,” she said.
However, the organisation has alleged that their own investigation revealed Kalra’s passport had vanished from the case docket. He had handed it over to police as part of his bail conditions.
“A proper investigation by Ipid is necessary to ascertain the role of the SAPS in aiding the absconding of Mr Kalra from the Republic,” said Murombedzi.
SAPS provincial spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said it was true that Kalra had failed to appear in court and a manhunt had been launched. “At this stage, the whereabouts of the accused is unknown. Police will follow all available information to trace him. If any information or any facts suggests that he has left the country, Interpol will be asked for an assistance,” he said.
“There is also an investigation relating to the conduct of the investigating officer. Departmental steps will be taken against him if it is established that he contravened some investigation processes which enabled the accused to abscond,” he said.
While South Africa does have an extradition treaty with India, it could be some time before he is found, arrested and extradition proceedings carried out.
Murombedzi said Wessels was beyond distraught that the case against Kalra had stalled, believing that justice would not be served.
“Our desired outcome, taking into account the challenges that arise from these investigations, is that Mr Kalra be extradited to South Africa as per the provisions set out in the treaty between the government of the Republic of South Africa and the government of the Republic of India on extradition.
“No one should be comfortable to feel as though they are beyond the reach of the arm of the law. Victims deserve justice, and as an organisation we would like to see SAPS and the NPA act in a manner which will bring justice for Ms (Wessels),” she said.
Meanwhile, Dlamini said if anyone had any information on Kalra’s whereabouts, they should contact the Crime Stop hotline at 08600 10111.
* Not her real name