The Enforcement Directorate may soon register a money laundering case to probe if dubious funds were used for allegedly fuelling caste-based protests in the wake of the alleged gang-rape and death of a Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras, officials said on Monday.
ED Joint Director (Lucknow zone) Rajeshwar Singh told PTI that the central probe agency is "examining" a Hathras police FIR linked to charges filed against a website created on an online platform, http://carrd.co. A link, 'justice for Hathras victim', was uploaded on the platform and it is under probe for alleged dubious activities, official sources said.
They said the ED may file a criminal case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The law empowers the agency to confiscate tainted funds collected for any alleged illegal activity through an online platform. Those involved can be arrested and prosecuted under the PMLA, they added.
The Hathras police FIR has been filed under Section 153A (promoting enmity between groups) of the Indian Penal Code. This is a scheduled offence on which PMLA sections can be applied, the sources said. Once an ED case is registered under criminal sections of the PMLA, they said, the agency can make enquiries from foreign regulators and investigative agencies to probe the details of money collected and utilised by individuals.
The agency, the sources said, will also examine the "ultimate beneficiaries" of the money collected by this web portal and the service provider (telecom company) can be asked to share the IP address or addresses from where the webpage was launched.
The ED, they said, will also seek technical help from the Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) for analysing traffic on the website and to obtain email ids and phone numbers used to buy the domain name and hosting a topic related to the alleged gang-rape and death of the Dalit woman in Hathras.
The web platform under the scanner has supposedly been developed by a US-based entity, they added. According to the Uttar Pradesh police, the facts and statements of the state government related to the Hathras incident were being forged, manipulated and circulated on social media.
Some accused are circulating material that could trigger caste-based conflict and these are serious offences considering the current situation in the region, a UP police officer said. The Dalit woman died of grievous injuries in a Delhi hospital on September 29, a fortnight after she was allegedly raped by four upper caste men in her village. The victim had suffered spinal injuries, paralysis and cuts in her tongue.
She was cremated in the early hours of September 30. While her family claimed the cremation was carried out against their wishes, the police said the last rites were held "as per the wishes of the family". The incidents have triggered massive outrage across the country. Facing severe criticism over the incident, the UP government has recommended a CBI probe into the whole episode.