John Fernandes, an accused in the Russian girl rape case, was absconding on Wednesday and the police was hot on the trail of the high profile politician from South Goa whose anticipatory bail has been cancelled.
The Russian Consulate meanwhile took umbrage at the contentious remarks made by Congress MP from Goa Shantaram Naik in the Rajya Sabha directed against the rape victim. The Consulate even offered to issue an advisory asking its citizens not to remain outside hotels after 10 PM, in an apparent response to remarks by Naik and Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat that the victim should not have been out with men late in the night.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also demanded a public apology from Naik for his controversial remarks which had angered several woman MPs. Police spokesman Atmaram Deshpande told reporters that the Crime Branch has not been able to trace Fernandes, who is missing since Tuesday's order of the Goa bench of the Mumbai High Court order which cancelled the anticipatory bail granted to the fugitive by a district and sessions court.
The 25-year-old Russian girl, whose name has not been released, has alleged that Fernandes had allegedly raped her at Colva beach. Deshpande said that police have initiated all the required steps to arrest Fernandes. Sources said Colva police on Tuesday went to the accused's house where he was unavailable. The Russian Consulate in Mumbai in a letter to Kamat voiced its distress over the victimisation of its citizens in Goa and said that the recent cases of crime against their women has caused a great deal of public concern back home.
"As you know, the number of Russian tourists coming to your state (Goa) is steadily growing. At the same time, there is increase of crimes against women. As the victims are Russian citizens it has caused a great public concern in our country," the Consulate said in its second letter in two weeks signed by Consul General Alexander Mantytsky. "Because of poor security situation in Goa, foreign tourists might become victims of crime. We would inform our citizens not to remain outside (the hotel) after 10 oclock, if you suppose that it would assist in their security." Vikram Verma, counsel to the Russian consulate told a TV channel.
"Essentially the Russian government is concerned about the safety about its citizens. If they feel that Russians should not be out late in the night, we would happy to give them any advisory which would improve their safety and security," he said. Police sources also said they are yet to issue a Look-Out Circular against the accused. "He can't leave the nation as he has deposited his passport to the crime branch," a senior police officer said. The Goa police, which is facing strong criticism for alleged lethargy in investigating the case, had earlier refused to question the accused although the court had restrained only his arrest and not questioning.
The accused had surrendered before the police after he managed to get anticipatory bail and was subsequently subjected to medical test. The Russian Consulate also reiterated their demand for a thorough probe into the rape of the 25-year-old woman. "We would like to express astonishment over the process of investigation," it said. "We once again request your excellency to give instructions to the authorities concerned to investigate the crime and take necessary actions according to the Indian law," the letter to Kamat said.