Minister Nihal Chand Meghwal 'Missing' in Rajasthan, Has a Photo-op in Delhi

Nihal Chand Meghwal took charge today as Minister of State for Panchayati Raj

New Delhi: Nihal Chand Meghwal, the union minister named by a woman in a rape case, is "missing", say the police in Rajasthan. They say they don't know whether he will show up on Wednesday at a court in Jaipur that has summoned him.

The 43-year-old minister, who has been summoned along with 16 others in the rape case filed in June, was in the spotlight in Delhi today as he took charge of a new department.

Asked by NDTV if he had received the Jaipur court summons, Mr Meghwal said, "No, I haven't."

Mr Meghwal, a minister of state, has been shifted from Chemicals and Fertilizers to Panchayati Raj, but he has not been dropped despite the controversy.

He has not been named as a suspect by the police, a fact his party, the BJP has stressed when opposition parties have called for his sacking.

In 2012, the state police investigated the woman's complaint and closed the case. She then moved court, which summoned the minister and others named by her.

In August, when Mr Meghwal did not appear in court, the police in his constituency Ganganagar said they could not find him to serve him summons as he has been staying in Delhi.  The court then ordered Ganganagar Superintendent of Police Hari Prasad Sharma to make sure the minister received the court notice.

The top police officer was present when the minister, on October 30, participated in a "Run for Unity" to mark Sardar Patel's birth anniversary. Days before that, he was there to adopt a village.

A lawyer representing the complainant says there is no reason for the police to not track him down during his many visits to Ganganagar.

Sources in Raisinghnagar, the minister's hometown, say he may not appear in court tomorrow.

The case of the "missing minister" has been seized by the Congress, which has asked PM Modi to explain. The party's Digvijaya Singh tweeted this morning, "Missing Minister of GOI ! Modi must respond. How can Rajasthan Govt claim that a Minister in GOI can't be traced ? Good Governance Mr Modi ?" On Monday, the Congress raised questions on many of the 21 new ministers that have joined the government.

The BJP alleges that Mr Meghwal was framed by the previous Congress government of Rajasthan.