Uttar Pradesh: Engineer arrested for exploiting 50 children

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested an Uttar Pradesh government employee for allegedly sexually exploiting 50 children between 5 and 16 for a decade and selling videos and photographs of sexual abuse on the dark web to paedophiles across the world, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

Rambhawan, a junior engineer with the state irrigation department, allegedly victimised children in the districts of Chitrakoot, Banda and Hamirpur. He collected and shared child sexual abuse material (CSAM) with other paedophiles using dark web and cloud services abroad, the people quoted above said on condition of anonymity.

“Apart from the physical abuse of these children, the accused also allegedly recorded their acts using their mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices,” said RK Gaur, CBI spokesperson.

Rambhawan, 41, hails from the town of Naraini in Banda district and was posted in Karvi town of Chitrakoot district for the last two years in the irrigation department. Before that, he was posted in Prayagraj. Late in the evening, state jal shakti minister Mahendra Singh said the junior engineer was suspended.

The accused was arrested from Banda and charged under the Information Technology Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If found guilty, he faces life imprisonment.

Amit Kumar, deputy superintendent of police with CBI, said the engineer was arrested on Monday and produced before a court in Banda on Tuesday. Kumar informed the executive engineer of the irrigation department in Karvi, Chitrakoot, about the arrest through a letter, a copy of which is with HT. He was remanded to CBI custody by the Banda court.

During searches, the CBI recovered eight mobile phones, around eight lakh rupees in cash, sex toys, laptop, and other digital evidence carrying huge amount of CSAM, officials said.

“The accused allegedly used these electronic items and gadgets to lure children falling in the age group of 5-16 years. The scrutiny of the emails of the accused has revealed that he was allegedly in constant touch with several individuals (both Indian and foreign nationals) for the purpose of sharing CSAM”, Gaur said.

Gaur said that the accused allegedly created and shared huge quantity of CSAM over the years through the internet using various social media platforms and websites over the dark web ,the portion of the internet not covered by search engines and, hence, mostly beyond access for typical users. Often, dark web sites are used for cyber crime because it cannot be accessed by traditional methods or browsers.

“It was alleged that the accused used dark web for sale, transmission and sharing of such CSAM content with other individuals,” added Gaur.

A CBI officer who didn’t want to be named said the accused disclosed during interrogation that he used to lure the children with mobile phones and other electronic gadgets.

CBI has a special unit called Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention/ Investigation (OCSAE) for matters pertaining to online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Apart from receiving various references/information, the unit is undertaking investigation of various offences relating to online child sexual abuse and exploitation.

People familiar with the development said that the accused junior engineer has been booked under POCSO (prevention of children from sexual offences) act and Information Technology Act. If found guilty, he can face a jail term of life.

An official in the UP government said on condition of anonymity that CBI teams were in Chitrakoot for about a month, investigating the engineer and questioning several people, including his driver, people close to him and those who handled or sold him electronic gadgets.

Chitrakoot superintendent of police Ankit Mittal said the local police never got any complaint about him sexual abusing children.

Child sexual abuse is punishable in India under the 2012 under the 2012 POCSO act and sections of the IPC. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 126 cases were filed under POCSO every day in 2019.

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