Taking the view that the police needed to be given more time to probe MiD Day journalist J Dey murder case, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday asked the Mumbai Crime Branch to submit a further progress report on the investigation within two weeks, by July 6. The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition and two other petitions, all primarily demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
A Division Bench of Justices Ranjana Desai and R.V. More perused a confidential probe report placed before the court in a sealed cover. The police also showed them a set of investigation files comprising the panchanama report, case diary, mobile phone records and other documents. “Having gone through this report, we feel they [the police] should be given time. They are making efforts; they are awaiting something,” Justice Desai said.
Expressing her concern, she said the court “sincerely hoped” that Dey's killers were brought to book. “All of us are very anxious. We share your anxiety,” she told the petitioners.
Justice Desai also underlined the urgency of the case. “We are all concerned about this murder. It's for the Mumbai police to come clean and show that they are making efforts to nab the culprits. All possible efforts should be made to convey our anxiety to the officers,” she told Maharashtra Advocate-General (AG) Ravi Kadam.
During the last hearing, the Bench asked the AG to be present in the court.
Mr. Kadam assured the court of a thorough investigation. “The anxiety of all the citizens is extreme as a member of the fourth estate has been killed. All angles are being covered. Nobody would be spared,” he said.
Calling for a CBI probe in the light of the alleged cluelessness of the police, petitioner V.P. Patil cited a recent statement of Home Minister R.R. Patil. Mr. Patil had said criminals these days did not leave behind any clues. Another petitioner Ketan Tirodkar demanded the invocation of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case.
“The MCOCA covers contract killing. If the police have come to the conclusion that prima facie it's a contract killing, then they be directed to invoke the MCOCA. This will encourage informers to come forward as the accused cannot get bail,” Mr. Tirodkar told the court.
The court held that it was not in a position to tell the police what to do unless something was found to be amiss. “They will invoke whatever provisions of law they deem fit. They have the assistance of the AG,” Justice Desai said.
Mr. Tirodkar referred to a police circular and WikiLeaks cable to put forth his claim of a nexus between the police and the underworld. He said a circular from Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik had pointed to the involvement of the police with builders and underworld elements in connection with some slum rehabilitation projects.
Under these circumstances “the probe may be sabotaged by certain officers,” Mr. Tirodkar told the court.
Advocate Sashi Kumar Nair, representing a third petitioner S. Balakrishnan, Editor of a city tabloid Deshbhakti Andolan, referred to the Vohra Committee report of 1993 that studied this nexus.
The court, however, said that although the alleged nexus was a serious claim, the matter on hand was that of the murder case. Mr. Kadam said the Centre was looking into recommendations of the Vohra Committee report. As for WikiLeaks, he said Mr. Tirodkar's information was from an “unauthenticated source” which “cannot be relied upon.”
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy told journalists outside the court that the police had “submitted to the court a detailed confidential report of the investigation. We have been given more time.”
Senior journalist Jatin Desai told The Hindu that 15 days' time was sufficient. “If the police don't crack the case by then, we are confident the court will hand it over to the CBI. [Justice Desai] has not rejected our demand,” he said.