27 July 2021 10:41 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday raised questions at the legality of the SIT probe in the alleged sex CD scandal involving former State Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, as the SIT Chief has been on leave since May 1. Therefore, the Court has ordered to stop the SIT investigation in the two FIRs lodged on the complaints of Jarkiholi and the victim-woman in relation to the sex CD scandal and...
The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday raised questions at the legality of the SIT probe in the alleged sex CD scandal involving former State Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, as the SIT Chief has been on leave since May 1.
Therefore, the Court has ordered to stop the SIT investigation in the two FIRs lodged on the complaints of Jarkiholi and the victim-woman in relation to the sex CD scandal and has restrained the SIT from filing final reports in relation to the said FIRs.
The Court said it would go into the issue of legality of the investigation carried out in the absence of the head of the Special Investigation Team (SIT). The Court also sought an explanation regarding the SIT report getting leaked to the media.
By an order dated March 11, the Commissioner of Police (Bengaluru city) had constituted the SIT, under the leadership of IPS Officer Soumendu Mukherjee. However, since May 1, the officer has been on medical leave.
A bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice N S Sanjay Gowda in their order said "We have perused the report dated July 19, filed by Jt Commissioner of Police Crime. In the said report it is mentioned that Shri Soumendu Mukherjee IPS, Additional Commissioner of Police is on medical leave since May 1, 2021. We may note here that under the order dated March 11, which is the subject matter of challenge in two of the four petitions, it is mentioned that Shri Soumendu Mukheerjee is the leader of SIT. The question is, in the absence of the head of SIT, whether investigation could have proceeded."
It added "In none of the petitions any order is placed on record showing the Commissioner of Police, modified the order dated march 11, and replaced Shri Soumendu Mukherjee. We will deal with the question of legality and validity of the constitution of SIT after the statement of objection is filed by the State government. However, the report which is tendered today shows that investigation was made by SIT in CR no 21/2021 and 61/2021 and 30/2021, by the said SIT constituted by order dated March 11. In fact in CR No. 61/2021, B report was filed. However, the head of the SIT has been on leave since May 1, therefore it is not known whether the report was approved by the head of SIT."
Further the court observed, "Therefore, apart from the issue of legality and validity of the constitution of SIT, the issue of legality of the investigation carried in the absence of the head of SIT will have to be gone into by this court. While filing the statement of objections the state government and the SIT will have to deal with this aspect."
Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi assured the court that he would file the statement of objections within one week from today. The court directed the state to file the statement of objections by August 3.
It may be noted that soon after the incident came to light, accused Jarkiholi had written a letter to the State Home Department on March 10. Accordingly, a note was issued by the office of the Home Minister, following which the Commissioner of Police, on March 11, issued the order constituting the SIT.
During the hearing, the bench orally said "We are not going into the merits of the investigation, we are on the process followed by the SIT. Let the government explain how the investigation progressed without a leader and till then the final report will not be filed without the leave of the court."
Senior Advocate C V Nagesh appearing for Jarkiholi submitted that the SIT was constituted to probe into the petition (letter) filed by him. The two crimes have been registered after the constitution of SIT, which was done on the basis of an order issued by the Commissioner of Police.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the victim who has filed a petition challenging the order constituting the SIT, submitted that "They (SIT) have come out with no case against the accused which shows the investigation is malafide and it shows complete prejudice."
While posting the batch of petitions for further hearing on August 12, the court said "We make it clear that no investigation of CR No. 21 and CR No. 30, will continue and the final report shall not be filed without leave of the court."
It may be noted that CR No.21 is the FIR lodged on Jarkiholi's complaint and CR No.30 is the FIR lodged on the victim's complaint. A third FIR was also registered , CR No. 61, at the complaint of the father of the victim that she has been abducted. Closure report has been filed in the said FIR (CR No.61)
How did the SIT report leak to the Media?
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the victim, brought to the notice of the court a news report published in today's (July 27) edition of the Indian Express. Citing the report titled "SIT finds no evidence to prosecute Karnataka BJP MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi in sexual assault case", Jaisingh said:
"In the Indian express of today (July 27) the entire findings of SIT have been published. Even before it is served to the parties or could be taken up it has been extensively reported that SIT has found no substance in her complaint of rape"
She added "It is a very lengthy report giving the full details of the SIT report, placing on record that SIT has found no case and no substance in the complaint that she has made and it is extremely derogatory of her and it is suggestive of her that she has trapped this man and he is not guilty and it is obvious that they are going to close this case."
The court queried with the counsel for SIT on how the report could be made available to the media. It said "Let us first see that (newspaper) report first. Your (SIT) report is of July 19 and if it is leaked in the media then you (SIT) owe an explanation. In another matter we have taken a view that it is most improper for the police to go to the media and report what is the investigation, infact government has issued a circular also."
During the hearing Jaising orally said "I will file an application for contempt of court." The court allowed her to file an appropriate application in that behalf.
Orally the court said "Firstly let us examine the report we do not have the benefit of going through the report. You file the IA and produce the (newspaper) report and we will consider it".