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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 March 2006, 10:20 GMT
India's six-year-old 'criminal' girl
By Amarnath Tewary in Ara, Bihar

Rani Pandey
Rani has been accused of attacking policemen (Pics: Prashant Ravi)
Rani Pandey is a six-year-old girl - and an accused in a criminal case.

The girl has been charged by the police in the northern Indian state of Bihar with attacking them and helping her father escape from police custody.

This is despite the fact that under Indian law, the police cannot file a criminal case against a child below seven years of age.

"When the police lodged the case, they claimed Rani was 10 years old, when she was actually four years old. How could a four-year-old girl have attacked three policemen and freed me?" asks a distraught Bir Bahadur Pandey, the girl's father.

Rani had to put her thumb impression as her signature on the bail application as she cannot write. She has been out on bail for the past two years.

Interestingly, all the witnesses of Rani's "crime", barring one, in case number 453/04 with the police station in Ara are policemen.

The police are finally investigating how little Rani could be charged with a crime.


"We are investigating the matter how and why a four-year-old girl child was made accused in the case by the policemen," Ara police chief Ajitabh Kumar told the BBC.

Rani Pandey (r) with her family
Rani's family was accused by the police for attacking them
"We are looking into whether it was a case of mistaken identity or deliberate negligence from the policemen. Necessary action will be taken against those found guilty."

Rani father's, Bir Bahadur, who works as a part-time driver earning a little more than $1 a day, says the local police filed a "false case" against him, his wife Manju Devi, Rani and other family members.

Ironically, Bir Bahadur used to drive a local police jeep, and was also a police informer.

He says he quit being an informer after being targeted by some criminals and decided to buy a goods truck after taking a loan of 350,000 rupees ($7,866).

When he defaulted on his loan payments, the finance company confiscated the truck.

Bir Bahadur says after he got a letter from the finance company absolving him as a defaulter, the local government motor transport department - a party to the vehicle purchase - inexplicably refused to accept it.

He says it was then the police began harassing him at the behest of the transport department.

Rani Pandey
Rani stays home these days playing with her siblings
Rani's mother Manju Devi says the police ransacked their home in December 2004 and took away many things including 11,000 rupees ($244).

Soon after, the police brought criminal charges against Rani and other members of the family for allegedly attacking them and releasing Bir Bahadur from their custody.

Back at her derelict home, Rani spends her time learning nursery rhymes and playing with her three brothers when she is not attending court with her father.

She is the eldest among Bir Bahadur's children - the youngest, Ganesh, is just 18 months old.

The family is scared of letting Rani continue attending school fearing reprisals by the policemen, after an investigation was launched into her arrest.

The little girl is also confused and scared of the police and the media attention these days.

"I am scared to go to school. I fear the police and the courts," she says.

Her mother echoes the sentiment.

"We fear the police could do anything to harass us, especially after their mistake has come to the fore," she says.

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