One more charge sheet filed in Manipur fake encounter cases: CBI to SC

The CBI’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) today told the Supreme Court that it had filed another charge sheet in connection with the alleged fake encounters by the Army, Assam Rifles and police in Manipur.

On July 30, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) informed the apex court that its had filed two charge sheets before the competent court in connection with the cases.

During the brief hearing today, a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and U U Lalit asked the SIT to file its next status report in the alleged fake encounter cases by September 1.

The bench said that it would hear the matter on September 4, along with a separate petition filed by over 300 Army personnel who have challenged the registration of FIRs against members of the armed forces for carrying out operations in Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is in force.

At the outset, the bench perused the status report filed by the SIT and observed, “one more charge sheet appears to have been filed”.

“That’s right,” Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench and said that a charge sheet has been filed in the case by the probe agency.

To this, the bench said that another case “is coming up for hearing on September 4. We will take it up on September 4”.

The bench also said that CBI director Alok Kumar Verma, who was present in the court, need not come on the next date of hearing.

An advocate, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, referred to a media report and said that after the last date of hearing on July 30, the CBI spokesperson had issued a statement in which he had said that the SIT had not received relevant documents related to the cases from the armed forces.

“There is some disconnect in getting the documents. It is not clear as to how many FIRs are there against the armed forces,” the amicus said, adding that “cooperation is needed as far as handing over of documents are concerned”.

The Attorney General told the court that originally there were some issues regarding handing over of documents but now the CBI director has said that all the relevant documents have been received by the SIT.

The court had on July 30 said that the matter involved the issue of “life and death” of people and asked the CBI’s SIT to expeditiously complete its investigation into these cases.

The CBI had informed the court that 14 persons have been charge-sheeted in the first two cases for the alleged offences of murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The CBI director was earlier summoned by the apex court which was unhappy over the “unduly long time” taken by the SIT in probing the cases of alleged extra-judicial killings and fake encounters in Manipur.

The court, which is hearing a PIL seeking a probe into as many as 1,528 cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur, had on July 14 last year constituted the SIT.

Gujarat High Court says SIT probe had shortfalls: Naroda Patiya riots

Coming down heavily on the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which probed the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot cases, the Gujarat High Court said there were several “shortfalls” in its probe.

A division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehia also said the investigation carried out by the SIT, which was constituted on the directions of the Supreme Court in 2008, did not “inspire much confidence”.

The high court had yesterday acquitted former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, along with 17 others, and upheld the conviction of 13 people, including ex-Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi. It also convicted three others who were acquitted by the trial court.

“It is during the course of investigation by the SIT that the name of …Mayaben Kodnani was revealed. From the evidence of the witnesses who have named Mayaben Kodnani, it emerges that many of them have referred to her having come in a white Maruti car. However, no efforts have been made to ascertain as to whether the said accused owned any white Maruti car at the relevant time,” the court said.

“No investigation has been conducted to establish whether (Kodnani) used to travel in a white Maruti car, nor has any exercise been undertaken to establish that accused No.62 Kirpalsingh Chhabra was her P.A.”

“There are several other shortfalls in the investigation conducted by the SIT, reference to which has been made at the particular stage in the judgement,” it said.

The high court, while acquitting Kodnani, who was first made an accused by the SIT in 2008, said discarding investigations carried out by agencies before the SIT, or giving it less weightage, did not arise.

“Considering the overall evidence which has come on record as well as the investigation carried out by the SIT, which too, does not inspire much confidence …the court is of the view that the prior investigation …cannot be discarded and ignored while considering the credibility of a witness,” it said.

The order of the trial court had relied upon the SIT findings over findings of earlier agencies, which the high court said “has no legal basis.”

“It is settled legal position that it is the first version which comes on record which is most significant,” it said, while observing that the apex court ordered for an SIT to carry out “further investigation” and not “reinvestigation.”

The SIT had verified statements of several witnesses and also recorded statements of new witnesses as part of its investigation.

The high court also criticised the investigating officer of the SIT, saying that witnesses’ statements were recorded “in blatant breach” of the provisions of section 161 and 162 of the CrPC as he obtained signatures of the witnesses and police officers on their statements.

“One wonders whether the Investigating Officer (SIT) and such high ranking officers were not aware of these basic provisions of law,” it said.

While upholding the conviction of former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and two others — Prakash Rathod and Richard Chhara — who were also charged with criminal conspiracy, the court considered the oral evidence of journalist Ashish Khetan, who later joined politics.

Khetan had carried out a “sting operation” on the three convicts. The court said that “extra judicial confessions” made by Bajrangi and two others in the sting operation were established by Khetan’s oral statement.

“The documentary evidence, which is in the nature of electronic recording, would therefore be in the nature of corroborative evidence to support the testimony of the witness,” it said.

It also pulled up the special public prosecutor of the SIT for “not understanding that information/sting in the DVDs and CDs is in the nature of documentary evidence and has to be proved in accordance with section 65B of the Evidence Act.”

The court said this observing that the SPP tried to focus Khetan’s cross examination on aspects of “inducement, and the fact that the witness had carried out the sting under an assumed identity by using a fabricated identity card.

Draft final report prepared, SIT tells Supreme Court: Sunanda case

The special investigation team (SIT) today told the Supreme Court that a draft final report has been prepared after conducting “thorough professional and scientific investigations” in the case relating to the death of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar.

Delhi Police, in its affidavit filed in the apex court, has said that a draft final report has been sent to the prosecution department of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi for “legal scrutiny” and it would be filed in the concerned trial court after being vetted.

“The SIT, after conducting thorough professional and scientific investigations, has prepared a draft police report under section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code and sent the same to the prosecution department of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi for legal scrutiny,” it said.

“As soon as the draft police report is received after legal vetting by the prosecution department, the same shall be submitted before the competent trial court for consideration and concomitant judicial proceedings,” the affidavit, filed by Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Romil Baaniya who is supervising the SIT probe, said.

Pushkar was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a suite of a five-star hotel in Delhi on the night of January 17, 2014.

The top court had in February sought the response of Delhi Police on a plea filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into Pushkar’s death.

While issuing notice to the police on Swamy’s plea, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra had left open the question of maintainability of the petition.

Swamy had filed an appeal in the top court against Delhi High Court’s October 26 last year’s verdict dismissing his plea for a probe into Pushkar’s death by a court-monitored SIT. While rejecting the plea, the high court had termed his public interest litigation (PIL) a “textbook example of a political interest litigation”.

Swamy, in his plea before the high court, had alleged that the police had “botched up” the probe and accused Tharoor of “interfering” in the investigation as a minister in the erstwhile UPA regime and later.

The high court had chastised the BJP leader and his lawyer, who was a co-petitioner before it, for making “sweeping allegations” in the petition against Tharoor and the Delhi Police without giving any basis for such accusations.

The high court had observed that Swamy ought to have mentioned his political affiliation as well as that of Tharoor in his plea as these facts were important for adjudication of the case.

SC dismisses plea seeking SIT probe in alleged bribery case

SC dismisses plea seeking SIT probe in alleged bribery case
SC dismisses plea seeking SIT probe in alleged bribery case

The Supreme Court today dismissed another plea filed by a non-government organisation seeking an SIT probe into the alleged bribery case in the name of judges.

A bench comprising justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar also imposed a cost of Rs 25 lakh on the petitioner NGO – Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), which had sought an SIT probe into the matter.

The apex court had earlier dismissed a similar plea, which made identical allegations filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal.

The petition had claimed that allegations of bribery were levelled for securing settlement of cases relating to medical colleges in which retired Orissa High Court judge, Ishrat Masroor Quddusi, is also an accused.

( Source – PTI )

Sajjan should not have been given anticipatory bail: SIT to Delhi HC

Sajjan should not have been given anticipatory bail: SIT to Delhi HC
Sajjan should not have been given anticipatory bail: SIT to Delhi HC

Congress leader Sajjan Kumar should not have been granted anticipatory bail by a trial court in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, the Delhi High Court was today told by a Special Investigation Team (SIT).

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for the SIT which is probing the charges against him, told Justice Anu Malhotra that witnesses were not coming forward as the Congress leader was not in custody.

Kumar was granted anticipatory bail by a trial court on December 21 last year in a case of killing of three Sikhs during the riots which had occurred after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The ASG argued before the high court that the trial court had erred in granting the relief to the former MP on the ground of lapse of time.

Jain said the witnesses and their families as well as the kin of the victims of the riots had fled to Punjab fearing for their lives and it was only now that they were coming forward.

He said that witnesses would be required to be confronted with Kumar and if he was out of custody, the witnesses would not come forward and gave the example of one such person whose statement was recorded before a court in Chandigarh.

Jain said that truth will remain as such even with the passage of time. He also denied that the reopening of the case was politically motivated.

There are two cases filed against Kumar falling in the jurisdiction of Janakpuri and Vikaspuri police stations in West Delhi.

The complaint in Janakpuri pertains to the killing of two Sikhs, Sohan Singh and his son-in-law Avtar Singh, on November 1, 1984 and in the other, where another Sikh, Gurcharan Singh, was burnt on November 2, 1984 in the jurisdiction of Vikaspuri Police Station. Gurcharan, who was half burnt, had remained bed-ridden for 29 years. He died three years ago.

( Source – PTI )

Judges bribery case: SC dismisses plea for SIT probe

Judges bribery case: SC dismisses plea for SIT probe
Judges bribery case: SC dismisses plea for SIT probe

The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition seeking SIT probe into an alleged case of bribery in the name of judges, saying such a plea has raised unnecessary doubts over the integrity of judges.

The apex court rejected the petition filed by lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, making it clear that the CBI’s FIR was not against any judge and neither was it possible to lodge such a complaint against a judge.

However, it did not issue contempt notice against Jaiswal.

A bench of Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar also deprecated attempts made for recusal of one of the judges in the matter saying it was not proper and tantamounted to “forum shopping.”

Jaiswal, through senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, had sought recusal of Justice Khanwilkar from hearing the matter. Khanwilkar had refused to recuse himself.

The bench observed that “the damage has been done to the institution by filing of such a plea and unnecessary doubts were raised on its integrity.”

The petition had claimed that allegations of bribery were levelled for securing settlement of cases relating to medical colleges in which a retired Orissa High Court judge, Ishrat Masroor Quddusi, is also an accused.

( Source – PTI )

Plea on bribes taken in judges’ names sent to constition bench

Plea on bribes taken in judges' names sent to constition bench
Plea on bribes taken in judges’ names sent to constition bench

The Supreme Court today referred a plea regarding alleged bribes being taken in the names of judges to a Constitution Bench comprising top five senior-most apex court judges.

The apex court issued notice to the Centre and the CBI on the plea which sought setting up of an SIT to be headed by a former Supreme Court judge and monitored by the court.

A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer directed the CBI to keep in safe custody the documents and relevant materials with regard to the FIR lodged by it on September 19 in which a former Odisha High Court judge has also been named as an accused.

The bench said the CBI should place in a sealed cover, the documents and relevant materials of the case before the Constitution Bench on November 13.

The CBI FIR has alleged that the ex-High court judge and others had hatched a conspiracy and demanded huge gratification assuring favourable settlement of a case relating to medical college admissions in the apex court.

At the outset, former Supreme Court Bar Association president and senior advocate Dushyant Dave said the Chief Justice of India could not hear this matter as the allegations are related to a case heard by the bench headed by him.

Earlier in the day, the apex court had agreed to urgently hear the plea regarding allegations of bribes being taken in the name of judges.

( Source – PTI )

Kotkhai rape case: Judicial custody of 8 cops extended till Oct 3

Kotkhai rape case: Judicial custody of 8 cops extended till Oct 3
Kotkhai rape case: Judicial custody of 8 cops extended till Oct 3

A court in Himachal Pradesh today extended till October 3 the judicial custody of eight police officers, including an IG rank officer, in connection with the custodial death of an accused in the rape-and-murder case of a minor in Kotkhai on July 4.

Inspector General of Police Z H Zaidi, Deputy Superintendent of Police Manoj Joshi and six other police officers were arrested by the CBI on July 29 and remanded to police custody till September 4 for the death of Suraj in police custody.

Their police remand was first extended till September 7, and then they were sent to judicial custody till September 20.

A local court today further extended their custody by two weeks.

Except Zaidi, who has been admitted to the Indira Gandhi Medical College in Shimla since September 13 after he complained of chest pain, all the seven others accused in the case were produced before the court today via a video link.

The seven officers have been lodged in Kanda jail, nearly 16 kilometres from Shimla.

Zaidi was heading a Special Investigation Team (SIT) which investigated the rape and murder of the minor in Kotkhai on July 4, whose body was found two days later . The case later came to be known as “Gudiya” rape-and-murder case.

Zaidi had arrested six people in the case, but one of the accused – Suraj – died in police custody. The police initially claimed Raju – another accused in the case – killed Suraj.

But when the High Court on July 19 handed over the case to CBI, the agency arrested Zaidi and seven other police officers on July 29.

The CBI is set to submit a fresh progress report on the case in the High Court tomorrow.

( Source – PTI )

SC panel to examine SIT decision to close anti-Sikh riot case

SC panel to examine SIT decision to close anti-Sikh riot case
SC panel to examine SIT decision to close anti-Sikh riot case

The Supreme Court has constituted a supervisory body comprising two of its former judges to examine the decision of the SIT to close 199 cases relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The apex court named its former judges, Justice J M Panchal and Justice K S P Radhakrishnan, as members of the supervisory body and asked them to start functioning from September 5.

The court said the supervisory body would scrutinise the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) decision to close 199 riots related cases and would also examine whether it was justified.

“We constitute a supervisory body of two former judges of this court, namely Justice J M Panchal and Justice K S P Radhakrishnan, who shall scrutinise the 199 matters which have been closed and express the view whether there was justification to close the cases,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said in its order of August 16, before he was elevated as the Chief Justice of India.

The apex court, in the order uploaded today, asked the panel to file a report in the matter within three months.

“The supervisory body is requested to file a report within three months. The said supervising body shall be given requisite assistance which the Union of India shall provide.

The supervisory body shall start functioning from September 5, 2017. The members of the said body shall get all the financial benefits as permissible in law,” the bench said.

The apex court had on March 24 asked the Centre to place before it the files pertaining to the 199 cases of the anti- Sikh riots which the SIT, set up by the Home Ministry, had decided to close.

The SIT is headed by Pramod Asthana, an IPS officer of 1986 batch, and has Rakesh Kapoor, a retired district and sessions judge, besides Kumar Gyanesh, an additional deputy commissioner of Delhi Police, as its members.

The anti-Sikh riots that broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had claimed 2,733 lives in Delhi alone.

( Source – PTI )

Murthal rape case: HC gives SIT a month’s deadline to conclude

Murthal rape case: HC gives SIT a month's deadline to conclude
Murthal rape case: HC gives SIT a month’s deadline to conclude

The Punjab and Haryana High Court today gave the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing allegations of rape at Murthal near Sonipat during the 2016 Jat agitation, a one month deadline to conclude investigations.

The court also directed that IPS officer Amitabh Dhillon, presently IG, Hisar Range, will head another SIT to look into cases of alleged rioting, violence, arson etc, during the Jat reservation stir, other than the Murthal case.

The court had earlier taken a suo motu cognizance of a media report regarding alleged rapes in Murthal during the quota stir.

When the matter related to Murthal came up for hearing before a division bench comprising Justice S S Saron and Justice Avneesh Jhingan, the chief of the SIT probing the case, IG Mamta Singh, came under criticism from senior advocate Anupam Gupta, who is assisting the court as ‘amicus curiae’.

“The head of the SIT has been submitting status reports from time to time. Seven to eight reports have already been given by her. As per her last report, no victim, no witness of the Murthal rape case has been found,” he said.

According to Gupta, he apprised the court that there was no new input in the SIT report even after one and half years of investigation. They have failed to find any victim, he said.

“I said that I do not have any confidence in the head of the SIT and sought directions that the Murthal rape case issue be handed over to the CBI,” Gupta later said giving details of the day’s proceedings.

After hearing the arguments, the High Court bench decided to give a one-month deadline to the Mamta Singh headed SIT to conclude investigations, he added.

The court also said that if after one month nothing substantial comes out from the SIT’s side, then it will examine whether to send the case to CBI, Gupta said.

According to the senior lawyer, the court had earlier said that another SIT must be constituted for the other cases that allegedly happened during the stir.

The Haryana home secretary had submitted ten names from which to choose the head of this SIT, Gupta said.

“I had taken time to study those names. Today, I said that I have negative feedback about those names and instead proposed the name of IPS officer Dhillon. I told the court that he is competent, honest and has had a stint with the CBI,” Gupta said.

The court accepted my plea and Dhillon has been appointed as the head of this SIT, he added.

“Dhillon will act independently, report to the High Court and probe all cases that happened in the violence during the stir other than the Murthal rape case,” Gupta said.

He said the court also heard five cases related to Haryana Finance Minister Capt Abhimanyu’s family, including the burning down of their house in Rohtak in the violence during the Jat reservation stir last year.

“The state government had suo motu sent these cases to the CBI. The High Court today asked the CBI to file a status report in these cases,” Gupta said.

He said the court will now hear the Murthal rape case and other cases connected with violence during the reservation agitation, on October 12.

( Source – PTI )