Coming down heavily on Delhi Police for inordinate delays and lacunae in the Sunanda murder probe, the High Court on Wednesday gave an ultimatum of 15 days to come up with final report on the probe details. The Bench comprising of Justices G S Sistani and Chander Shekhar pulled up the Delhi Police several times and asked why there is so much delay in reaching a conclusion in a case of “unnatural” death.
It is now evident that Delhi Police is trying to save its first probe team led by the then Joint Commissioner Vivek Gogia.
The main petitioner Subramanian Swamy and co-petitioner Ishkaran Bhandari alleged that “inordinate delay” has been caused in the probe “which is a blot on the justice system“. They pointed out that Delhi Police was supposed to have filed the final status report on the probe on August 30, 2017 (today).
The judges refused to give a private audience to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Ishwar Singh, as requested by the Assistant Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain. The judges said whatever the Delhi Police have to say should be put on affidavit within 15 days and it will be examined on the next hearing slated for September 21. The ASG submitted that the court could talk to senior Delhi police officials involved with the case inside the chamber as there was no laxity on part of the police in investigating the matter. Delhi Police was supposed to file a detailed affidavit on the probe on August 30. Instead of filing, it sought more time. The ASG claimed that the lag was not at the individual level but due to the delay in getting the scientific reports.
On hearing this, the bench said it was not fair to look into or monitor the investigation, but would “certainly like to know where the investigation stands as of today.”
“The incident occurred in January 2014 and we are in the middle of 2017. It’s over three years but nothing concrete has come as of today,” the bench said, adding “certainly it cannot be unending”.
“We have no hesitation to look into your report, but it is a bad habit to monitor the probe,” it said.
Opposing Delhi Police for buying time, the main petitioner Subramanian Swamy pointed out that Delhi Police was wasting time by finding the nature of the poison. He said that within a day, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) found that it was an unnatural cause of death and that the death was by poisoning. But the first probe team of Delhi Police goofed up and committed several mistakes in basic evidence collection. Many crucial pieces of evidence were destroyed and delays were created to send to labs based abroad, even after AIIMS had reiterated its findings. Swamy also pointed out that Delhi Police Economic Offences Wing had found the role of Indian Premier League (IPL) betting racket and files were now given to the Enforcement Directorate.
The court posted the matter after two weeks and said that by then the ASG himself should look into the status of the investigation. “If you are with some different report on the development of the probe after two weeks, it’s okay. Otherwise, we will look into it. Before we get into it, we will wait for two more weeks and see what you have come up with,” the bench said.
The Delhi Police, which was supposed to give answers on August 30 to the questions raised by Swamy on the evasive first status report did not turn up with a detailed status report. It is now evident that Delhi Police is trying to save its first probe team led by the then Joint Commissioner Vivek Gogia. The first probe team led by him made critical errors such as the return of Sunanda’s mobile phones to husband Shashi Tharoor on the next day of the murder. The team did not even submit basic details like bed sheets, pillow cover and medicines in the room to the AIIMS team for a long time. After repeated reminders, the Delhi Police handed over these materials only on October 2014 and CCTV visuals of the hotel’s main porch were also not seized.
There have been allegations that the first investigation team was paid hush money to destroy evidence and make a hash of the investigation. Caught between the rock and a hard place, it is going to be interesting to see what the Delhi Police will do.
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