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Monday, April 12, 2021

Interview: Chhaya Sharma – Woman who led Nirbhaya case investigation on ‘Delhi Crime’ winning Emmy Awards

Chhaya Sharma, now Director, Central Vigilance Commission, talks about the series and her experience while working on the case.

First of all Platocast appreciates Chhaya Sharma for her immense grit, and congratulates the team of Delhi Crime for winning the prestigious award. Read on for an exclusive Interview she had given us on the occasion.  

On a chilly December night in 2012, a woman and her male friend boarded a bus back home at night in Delhi, after spending the evening watching a movie  at a theatre. Little did they know that the bus was being driven by joyriders — a group of men who were about to commit one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in history.

The young paramedic student was gang-raped and brutally assaulted inside the moving bus. The male friend accompanying her was assaulted too. While he recovered, the woman succumbed to her injuries, days after the assault.

The gruesome nature of the crime shook the collective conscience of the nation. Streets of Delhi as well as other cities saw thousands of protestors demanding justice.

It was not easy for the Delhi Police to deal with the mounting pressure. An exceptionally hard working, diligent team of the Delhi Police ended up nabbing the perpetrators within five days, leaving no scope for people to question their conduct.

Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime

While various shows and documentaries made after the incident focused on the gruesome crime, Richie Mehta’s Delhi Crime, a hard-hitting seven-part Netflix web-series released in 2019, followed the Delhi Police’s investigation into the Nirbhaya case.

Delhi Crime features actress Shefali Shah in the lead role. Her performance as Vartika Chaturvedi, DCP (South District) of Delhi Police, leading a 41-member team that investigated the crime, was widely appreciated. The inspiration of her character comes from IPS Chhaya Sharma, former DCP (South District) of Delhi Police, whose unparalleled determination to fight for Nirbhaya makes her a true warrior.

Very recently, the Netflix show bagged the best drama series honour at the International Emmy Awards, which is a huge honour for the country. A series like no other, Delhi Crime throws light on the hard work and will power of the Delhi Police team that nabbed the perpetrators.

Following the huge win, Platocast spoke to Chhaya Sharma, who is now Director, Central Vigilance Commission, on the series and her experience while working on the case.

1)  Delhi Crime has won the Emmy award. How does it feel?

Awesome, though vicariously! Feels good that a positive police story got heard, seen and accepted worldwide. My heartiest congratulations to the team that inspired it in the first place, as well as the team that created it on screen.

2) While most other documentaries on this incident focus on the crime, Delhi Crime focuses on the investigation. Why do you think that was important?

This was a story of hope and validation of our respect for the due process of law vis-à-vis the vigilantism that is indirectly and publicly accepted. It’s inspirational for other police officers too since they have similar feelings, challenges and opportunities to get justice for the victims of various crimes in India and the world. It has a real feel about it. Absence of glam is essential to tell a true story convincingly, which the creators kept in mind.

3) Do you think it is important for people in power, like directors and producers, to use their voice to side with moments of injustice?

 I think more directors and producers should use their craft and listen to the real police stories, their issues in fighting for justice and how things are dealt with post catching the criminals, instead of showing the wrong images and parrying to the preconceived notions that are already existing and far from reality. I am sure there are many inspiring stories waiting to be told. This will also strengthen and encourage the good police officers’ work in the system to continue their fight for justice and remove the negative aspects and perception.

 4) Was handling this case more difficult than handling other cases? If yes, why?

 Personally, it was very challenging because of the time bar we set for ourselves but professionally, we were confident we would get them if we acted quickly by using all our resources and previous experience. It definitely was like looking for needles in a huge haystack. 

With each passing minute, the thought of not being able to meet our deadline created pressure. Moreover, the victim, her family, the courts, media and various commissions and committees seeking answers just created more pressure on the case and our timelines. Our case stood the test of time and grilling in courts. Eventually, good teamwork achieved it.

5) How hard did the Delhi Police have to work to nab the accused?

 Well, we all worked day and night as a single unit to solve the case. Many officers left their own police stations to their additional or second line inspectors and devoted full time to this case. Many sub-inspectors did exemplary work in detection and there was a team that didn’t really take off their shoes or rested for almost 100 hours continuously. Some teams were outstanding and successful, but efforts put in by other teams were no less. Our consultant lawyers were all very efficient and dedicated during the trial of the case and they didn’t charge us anything for this case.

 6) Where does India stand at the moment when it comes to women’s safety?

India has done a lot in terms of women’s safety. Zero FIR, verbatim FIRs which are computerised, introduction of section 166 A (registration of a case against the SHO if he or she refuses to register a case of sexual assault complaint of a lady), criminal amendments making stalking, staring and other forms of harassment an offence, etc. Some of the things that have happened in terms of training of staff to deal with such crimes and victims, setting up of Nirbhaya fund, one-stop centres, more coordinated efforts with NGOs and other stakeholders to assist the victims in post trauma management in addition to other efforts by the government at various levels.

 7) Any words of appreciation for the team you led?

 They are all my heroes and heroines and lovely human beings who rose to the occasion and understood the need of the hour to give their best. It was my honor to have led a team that was so obedient, well coordinated, had no ego tussles, all motivated and enthusiastic. It’s the collective diligence of all the officers involved that led us through the storm and eventually delivered justice for Nirbhaya.

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