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Clamour grows for CBI probe of Sheena murder

The Mumbai police, which has faltered at several stages of the probe and has weakened the case against prime accused Indrani, is being accused of bias.

Pankaj Vohra  New Delhi | 5th Sep 2015

ith doubts being raised over the competence of the Mumbai and Maharashtra police to conduct an impartial and unbiased investigation into the sensational Sheena Bora murder case, several former top police officials believe that the probe should ideally be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation for the satisfaction of the all concerned. Both the Mumbai and Maharashtra police have faced flak for botching up the initial leads three years ago and therefore are being accused in some quarters of contributing to the cover-up. Thus, even if they conclude the case successfully, doubts would continue to be raised. Their preliminary role would be under scrutiny by the defence lawyers during the trial stage.

The three accused — Indrani Mukerjea, her second husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai — were produced before a magistrate on Saturday and their police remand was extended till Monday on the plea that their presence was required to corroborate certain disclosures.

The impression that has been created is that the Mumbai police is keen on shielding Peter Mukerjea, former CEO of Star TV rather than ensuring that a fool-proof case is made out against Indrani Mukerjea. An ace sleuth from the Delhi police told The Sunday Guardian that the Mumbai police has faltered at several stages and consequently has weakened the case against prime accused Indrani from the very beginning. An instance of the casual approach of the Mumbai police is evident from the fact that it took eight days for them to search the residence of a murder suspect. They are also yet to establish a clear motive and have no solid evidence to make a watertight case against Indrani unless one of the other accused persons turns an approver and his testimony supports the scientific data. What remains a mystery is why Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria is evincing so much interest in the case to the extent that he has excluded every other official duty on hand to be present at the Khar police station.

The second pertinent question is that why did the police take so much time to trace Mikhail Bora, the deceased's younger brother and their biological father Siddhartha Das. The media tracked them down much before the police reached them.

Thirdly, why did the police allow Peter Mukerjea to give contradictory interviews to various TV channels when his role in the case was yet to be examined? If going by the supposition, that he was not involved in the conspiracy to kill Sheena, it is hard to believe that he did not discover subsequently that she had been killed.

Fourthly, how is it that the police, despite keeping Indrani in custody for so many days, has not been able to unravel the motive, which technically may not be essential for conviction but is imperative in developing the line of investigation? The main challenge before investigators would be to understand why a mother would kill her daughter and this humbug about financial trail appears completely unconvincing. Did Indrani, at any stage, out of her own insecurity or genuine assumption, suspect her daughter of forging any kind of relations with her husband and thus decided to do her away? A photo shot of Peter and Sheena being repeatedly flashed on TV screens is fuelling this theory.

Fifthly, why are the investigations being conducted at the Khar police station and what is the reason for the Crime Branch not being involved, given that at least two police stations turned away Rahul Mukerjea, Sheena's live-in partner when he went to lodge her missing report with them?

The police has been claiming that they have sufficient scientific data which links Indrani and the other accused to the case. This includes call records. As per the existing practice, service provider companies are obliged to provide call details which date back until one year. It is, therefore, unclear how the police managed to get the call details which were archival, being three years old. Significantly, the police is silent as well on whether they have recovered the cell phone instruments that were being used by Indrani, Sanjeev Khanna, Shyam Rai, Peter Mukerjea, Rahul Mukerjea, Mikhail Bora and other persons who are under police scrutiny at present. The handsets are vital for the recovery and retrieval of the text messages.

There is an absence of clarity on whether Nishan Dehi (re-enactment of the sequence of actions which led to the final execution of the crime and disposal of the body) has been successfully accomplished. This is a very important aspect of the probe and findings are admissible in court under the Evidence Act. There has also been immense speculative talk regarding how forensic experts have been able to establish that the skull and other body parts discovered at Raigad were of Sheena Bora. The DNA findings are being done to establish her parentage, which has become a secondary matter given that both Siddhartha Das and Indrani have owned her as their biological daughter. The tests, however, shall not be able to determine the manner in which she was murdered. The cause of death, therefore, would have to be corroborated by one of the accused persons.

 

SATURDAY'S DEVELOPMENTS

* Police custody of prime accused Indrani Mukerjea, former husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai extended by two days. Their police custody to end on 7 September.

* Prosecution said it needed to get details about the credit card used by Indrani to make various purchases for the murder of Sheena.

* It says the police also needs to contact the nodal officers of the internet companies which hosted the fake email ids created by Indrani in Sheena's name.

* Police tells court that the financial trail of Indrani's accounts needs to be found, as the accounts are maintained at various places from Mumbai to England, and various transactions have been done before and after the crime.

* Police points towards a mystery person with whom Indrani had direct contact. They refuse to reveal any details before the court.

* Indrani's lawyer accuses police of manipulating evidence against her. Says police conducting media trial by creating prejudicing against Indrani.

* "Two more days' police custody is humiliation to my client," says Gunjan Mangala, who represents Indrani.

 

The Mumbai police has been oddly silent on whether any fingerprints of the accused persons and that of Sheena Bora were lifted from any place in the garage of Indrani's Worli residence where Sheena's body had been kept. The car allegedly used to transport the corpse after the execution of the heinous act is unlikely to yield any evidence three years post the crime.

Mukund Kaushal, former Delhi Police Commissioner and Secretary (Internal Security), is of the view that the case should have ideally been transferred to the CBI as it would have ensured that subsequently no fingers were pointed at the Mumbai police. But for this to happen, either the Maharashtra government would have to refer the case to the CBI or otherwise a court would have to give directions.

Ram Asrey Tewari, who headed the Delhi police Crime Branch is also of the opinion that the CBI should take charge of the probe. The Central Forensic Science Laboratory is under the CBI jurisdiction and this particular case would require both extensive and intensive of scientific evidence to support the investigations.

Neeraj Kumar, former Delhi Police Commissioner said that the transfer of the case would lead to delay. The CBI is very well equipped to deal with anti corruption cases but its special crime cell is hard pressed on account of accumulated work. They have the personnel, but it would be a difficult task to transfer it.

Former CBI director Vijay Shankar Tewari said that this was a tricky case and such cases, though not as high profile, do take place all over the country where justice is aborted at the time of crime. It is to be established if there was any criminal negligence on part of the Raigad police.

Kiran Bedi, former top cop, however, said that the Mumbai police was doing a good job, although the Raigad police was guilty of not registering a case of murder when the body was found. There are myriad revelations in the public domain, although it seems that the police is pursuing its own strategy.

 
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