Outrage Confounded!
By Maxwell Pereira

As the only face identified with the police venturing on camera in the Jessica Lall case, I was in for more shock with the latest. In the television studio lounge with other panellists waiting for the talk-show to commence, we were all ears to Jessica’s sister Sabrina. She made new revelations indicating the presence of not one but many police officers at Tamarind Court on that fateful night of April 29, 1999. And apparently that the escaping Manu Sharma literally collided with one - a very senior officer who was just entering the premises, and referring to the shooting uttered agitatedly “…mere se galti ho gayee”.

What was horrifying was Sabrina’s next words - that on learning of the incident, this officer is supposed to have told the perpetrator, “Bete, bhag yahan se! Jaldi bhag!”

Advocate KTS Tulsi by my side lost not a moment to react. Emphatically he demanded that whosoever the police officers present when the incident occurred should be dismissed on charges of cowardice having fled the place. And in addition to dismissal a case of abetment be registered against the officer who urged the accused to escape. Tulsi went on to say this on camera during the debate that followed. If Jessica’s sister’s information were really true, I couldn’t agree more with the Advocate. Sabrina’s source for this startling revelation? ….a journalist friend, she said.

Again, if it were true, what bugs me is the fact and the reason why this journalist with-held such vital information and did not use it ever in his column for seven years? Is it because he was struck with paralysis like all others connected with the case? Or was he also part of the total conspiracy that the JCP/Crime then reported?

With more information surfacing now, I believe it is pertinent to note that the Jessica case investigation was for long also under scrutiny and close monitoring of the Delhi High Court in two writ petitions - following disclosure of the very anomalies that are now being bandied about, which were not hidden from the media or the public even then. When the HC dismissed both these writs, nowhere was there any mention of any lapse, lacunae or shoddy investigation on the part of the police – so succinctly now elaborated in the trial court’s judgement!

Obviously there have been glaring lapses in investigation, as pointed out by the internal enquiry of the police even before filing the charge-sheet. And for reasons I am sure will be explained at some stage, it was deemed expedient by the then police management to send the case up for trial on the strength of other available evidence to secure a conviction. Whether right or wrong, in the face of the final outcome of acquittal the concerned police do have lots to explain. And, many of the already listed police lapses that cannot really be brushed under the carpet indefinitely, would now need to be acted upon. Especially when to the Joint Commissioner enquiring into the investigation then, the lapses tantamounted to a conspiracy from the bottom to the top.

Among questions that need answers are the reason why the owner of the licensed weapon was not asked to produce it/ account for it/ and questioned why he did not report or get a case registered if it was missing. Why no case registered against the Ramanis for tampering/destroying material evidence like blood and the victim’s clothes? Why no attempt made to list vehicles at the premises as part of routine investigation to identify the accused’s transport by process of elimination? Why was Manu’s mobile phone not linked or investigated? How come despite Manu declining the Identification Parade, majority eye-witnesses turned the disadvantage in his favour by deposing that his photograph was shown to them by the police to ensure identification! Then knowing the high profile connections of the accused why was recording of statements u/s164 CrPC not resorted to as a precaution? And if the claim now being made of tampering and switching of the bullet empties at the CFSL is true, why was no enquiry into this criminal act not pursued at any stage? And what about the role of those police officers allegedly present at the Tamarind Court when the shooting took place?

In a first reaction to the verdict, Delhi Police have on Monday March 6th suo moto registered a case at Mehrauli police station u/s 201, 218 and 120-B IPC regarding destruction and fabrication of evidence and criminal conspiracy – as made out in the language of the judgement. This will facilitate investigation into all the lapses and conspiracy theories against the police or any other. And then the appeal against the judgement.

Even so, in discussions with a cross section of legal pundits including members of the Bar and those who have adorned the Bench, and experienced police officials, there is also a consensus emerging about the inadequate appreciation of the circumstantial evidence on the part of the trying court. Most feel that despite major lapses of evidence manipulation and hostile witnesses, there was enough there to secure a conviction. Many feel that instead of this appreciation, there has been an interpretation of circumstances to favour an acquittal. Circumstances like disbelieving of prosecution witness Deepak Bhojwani’s deposition on grounds of his name not featuring in the guest list – despite the fact that he accompanied the injured to the hospital and made the call to the PCR; and not going into the conduct of the accused immediately after the crime – his escape and absconding for a week. Retrieval of vehicles from the premises after three days. His inability to produce or account for the licensed weapon. And what prevented the court from invoking its powers u/s 311 CrPC to summon, examine, recall or re-examine any person whose evidence is essential to establish truth and deliver justice?

Mar 07, 2006: 950 words: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com


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