A senior advocate, who is the amicus curiae in the Murthal gangrapes case, told the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday that nine women were raped in Sonipat near Murthal during the Jat agitation in February 2016.

Anupam Gupta, who has been assisting the court in cases related to the Jat violence, requested the court to hand over the matter of the sexual assaults to the Central Bureau of Investigation, The Times of India reported.

Gupta said IAS officer Vijai Vardhan, who is part of the Parkash Singh Committee that was set up to investigate the Jat protests, had told him about the nine rapes. But Vardhan denied any such communication, prompting the amicus curiae to say he lacked the “biological element called spine”, according to The Indian Express. He also claimed that Vardhan had “crashed” under pressure because he was rebuked by the Haryana chief minister for sharing the information.

He made the statements as the case came up for hearing before a new bench on Thursday. The court refrained from making any observations and scheduled the next hearing for November 6.

In January, the earlier bench had taken suo motu cognisance of the rapes near Murthal. The Special Investigation Team, headed by Inspector General of Police Mamta Singh, that is looking into the case had told the court that nothing related to rapes had been found. The amicus curiae on Thursday said the police official was under pressure from higher ups to not pursue the case, The Indian Express reported.

In May 2016, Gupta had expressed his reservations against the SIT’s investigation. He said Amrik Singh, a dhaba owner in Murthal who had initially spoken up about the crimes, had changed his statement and had gone completely silent. Gupta believes that the dhaba owner will agree to speak up again if the CBI took over the investigation.