Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate remands them in CBI custody

Kochi: Ernakulam Chief Judicial Magistrate P.D. Soman on Wednesday remanded two Catholic priests and a nun who were arrested in the Sr. Abhaya murder case in the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) till December 2.

According to a report filed by the CBI before the court, Fr. Thomas Kottur, Fr. Jose Puthurukkayil and Sr. Stephy are accused number 1, 2, and 3 respectively in the case.

The report said the first and second accused were arrested between 5 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. on November 18 and the third on November 19.

The report, seeking custody of the accused, said that in order to unearth ‘incriminating evidence’ from the three and to find out the involvement of others and for the reconstruction of the scene of the crime, interrogation of the accused was essential.

Counsels for the accused, however, opposed the CBI plea. In case they were questioned, it should be done in the presence of their lawyers, counsels said.

However, the magistrate dismissed the contentions and observed that the CBI should be given a free hand to interrogate the accused in ‘solitary confinement,’ considering this as a special case. Besides, the court pointed out that the Kerala High Court had allowed the court to monitor the investigation.

Strong evidence: CBI

Announcing the arrest at a news conference here, CBI joint director Ashok Kumar said the arrests were made on strong evidence. He said the investigation would reach its ‘logical conclusion in 25-30 days.’ “It is the endeavour of the CBI to complete the investigation as expeditiously as possible in full deference to the directions of the High Court,” he said.

Sixteen years and investigation by several agencies later, the latest investigation began on November 1 following the Kerala High Court’s directive that the case be investigated by the CBI’s Kochi unit. It was the continuation of the work done by earlier CBI teams, Mr. Ashok Kumar said. The new team, headed by Deputy Superintendent of Police Nandakumar Nair, has some 30 personnel on it.

Mr. Ashok Kumar said he could not reveal the nature of the fresh evidence based on which the three were arrested as it might obstruct the course of further investigation.

Torture denied

He denied that the arrested persons or the person who testified had been harassed or tortured as, he claimed, that was not the way the CBI functioned.

Asked if the local police officers who had first investigated the case and who allegedly had destroyed evidence would be investigated too, Mr. Ashok Kumar said ‘proper action would be taken’ if evidence emerged. Asked about the outcome of the investigation by the previous CBI teams, he commented that when a patient is examined by ten different doctors, there could be ten different diagnoses.

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