To find out wilful destruction of material objects

The Kerala High Court on Thursday ordered a further investigation by the CBI to find out whether there had been any wilful destruction of material objects in the Sister Abhaya death case.

Justice K. Harilal allowed a criminal revision petition filed by T. Michael, former Superintendent of Police Crime Branch (CID), Kottayam, against the Thiruvananthapuram CBI Special Court order dismissing his plea for further investigation into the destruction of evidence.

The body of Sister Abhaya was found in a well on the premises of Pius X Convent in Kottayam. While the Crime Branch concluded that the death was a case of suicide by drowning, the CBI was of the view that it was a case of murder. The CBI’s stance was that though there were no eyewitnesses to the incident which took place on March 27, 1992, it had sufficient evidence to try the suspects, Jose Poothrukayil, Thomas M. Kottoor, and Sister Stephi.

The court also ordered the Thiruvananthapuram CBI Special Court to postpone the trial till the filing of further report. The CBI had been directed to file a further investigation report in three months. The Judge made it clear that further investigation should not disturb the last final report and that the further report must be treated only as a supplementary one. The court also directed the CBI Special Court to return the final report and documents which the investigation officer needed for conducting further investigation.

Mr. Michael said in his petition that the evidence collected, including personal clothing recovered from the body of the deceased, one plastic bottle, a pair of lady’s slippers, personal diary, and a white veil worn at the time of her death, were produced before the Sub Divisional Magistrate’s Court, Kottayam.

According to him, these material objects, however, were destroyed hastily, without handing it over to the CBI. The then CBI Dy.SP Varghese P. Thomas, who took over the investigation from the Crime Branch, had failed to take into his custody these evidence from the Kottayam Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM)’s office.

The petitioner pointed out that the CBI manual had clearly stated that the officer who started an investigation was bound to collect the material objects as soon as he took over the probe.

The failure to comply with the mandatory requirement created suspicion on the conduct of the then CBI investigation officer. The statements that the material objects had been destroyed as unclaimed in a routine manner could not be accepted when the district office manual stipulated retention of the material objects for three years.

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