Thanjavur student death | SC refuses to intervene in transfer of case to CBI
Bench asks Tamil Nadu not to take it as a ‘prestige issue’
The Supreme Court on Monday did not interfere in a Madras High Court order transferring the investigation into the death by suicide of a 17-year-old student at Thanjavur to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) amidst controversy sparked by a private video on social media in which the girl allegedly said she was asked to convert to Christianity.
"The investigation in terms of the impugned order [of Madras HC] will continue," a Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Bela M. Trivedi directed.
Justice Khanna told Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and P. Wilson, not to take the transfer of the case to CBI as a "prestige issue".
"Lots of things have happened in this case... It is not really for us to interject in the matter. Let it go on... In some cases, sometimes lots of things transpire during its hearing... Don't make it a prestige issue," Justice Khanna addressed the Tamil Nadu side.
The court, however, decided to look into the State's plea challenging certain comments made by the High Court in its orders against the conduct of the police investigations and senior police officers.
The court, on this point, issued notice and listed the next hearing after four weeks.
Mr. Rohatgi said the High Court had transferred the case to the CBI despite the fact that the plea before it was to hand over the investigation to the CB-CID.
Tamil Nadu has challenged a series of interim orders passed by the Madurai Bench of the High Court on January 21, 22 and 24.
On January 31, the High Court had transferred the case to CBI. Mr. Rohatgi argued that the orders of the High Court had interfered with the fair and impartial probe into the death.
"Orders were passed on a day-to-day basis... 'do this', 'do that'," Mr. Rohatgi complained.
Mr. Wilson said the State was not given a proper opportunity before the case was transferred to the CBI.
Tamil Nadu, also represented by State counsel Dr. Joseph S. Aristotle, had argued that the dying declarations made by the student, even to the Magistrate, “did not talk about any conversion”. He contended in the appeal that the private video had surfaced after she died on January 19. He argued that the much-criticised press conference held by the District Police Superintendent was based on preliminary enquiries, at which point there was no material to suggest attempts at conversion. The police officer had conveyed that the probe would cover all the angles in the case.
The High Court had transferred the investigation to the CBI on the basis of a petition filed by the girl’s father, who alleged that the police were “pressuring” him and the person who took the video in question.