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'Deceased Was Not Assaulted At Railway Tracks But Elsewhere' : SC On Mysterious Death Of NLU-Jodhpur Student

16 Sep 2020 1:57 PM GMT
Deceased Was Not Assaulted At Railway Tracks But Elsewhere : SC On Mysterious Death Of NLU-Jodhpur Student

The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Rajasthan police for the "hasty action" of filing a closure report in the investigation into the mysterious death of Vikrant Nagaichm who was a 3rd-year law student of the National Law University, Jodhpur.

The top court junked the closure report and directed a de novo investigation into the case by a fresh team, which is to be completed within a period of two months.

While allowing the writ petition filed by Neetu Kumar Nagaich, the mother of the deceased student, the top court made certain significant observations regarding the circumstances of the student's death, which happened in 2017.

The Court noted that the deceased was stated to have left the University premises along with several friends on the evening of August 13, 2017 at about 07.40 P.M.

His dead body was seen the next morning at about 9:00 A.M. on the railway tracks passing behind the college campus.

The counsel for the petitioner, Advocate Sunil Fernandes, told the court that as per the entry register of the hostel, the student returned back to the hostel during the night of August 13, 2017. If the deceased subsequently left the hostel premises again at night, there had to be visuals in the CCTV footage at the gate, the counsel submitted.

The SC noted that there were nine very serious injuries on his body which were found to be ante mortem in nature. The Court further observed that there was no blood at the place of occurrence, but there was blood on his clothes. Only one slipper of the deceased was found at the place of occurrence, the Court observed.

"It does not leave much to the imagination that the deceased was not assaulted at the railway track but elsewhere", the bench comprising Justices R F Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee observed in the judgment.

The death of the deceased was initially sought to be passed off by the Rajasthan police as accidental by collision with a train or suicidal due to depression. The petitioner's counsel submitted that the railway authorities stated that none of the drivers of the five trains that passed during the fateful night reported any untoward incident.

In the counter-affidavit filed by the Rajasthan police before the Supreme Court, they took the stance that the death was accidental. On July 8, the Court directed the police to complete the investigation within a period of two months. In the closure report, the police however took a different stand, stating it to be a "homicidal death with no clue".

This change of stance by the police was also taken into account by the SC.

"The closure report is therefore, to our mind, a clear hasty action leaving much to be desired regarding the nature of investigation, because if a detailed investigation had already been done as is sought to be now suggested, there is no reason why a final report could not have been filed by the investigating agency in the normal course of events and needed an order to do so from this Court. The entire investigation and the closure report therefore lack bonafide. The interest of justice therefore requires a de novo investigation to be done, to sustain the confidence of the society in the rule of law irrespective of who the actors may be", observed the judgment authored by Justice Navin Sinha.

The Court said that the new investigation team should have "efficient personnel well conversant with use of modern investigation technology also".

The petitioner's counsel had submitted that the police had failed to track the mobile tower location of the student.

The student's father had earlier approached the Rajasthan High Court. The HC disposed of that petition directing the Investigating Officer to file the result of the investigation in the court concerned, reserving liberty to the petitioner to challenge the same.

Terming the approach adopted by the High Court to be "misguided", the SC observed :

"Unfortunately, the High Court despite noticing the long pendency of the investigation took a misguided approach that the petitioner had not expressed suspicion against any one and neither had he alleged biased against the Investigating Officer, to pass an open ended order to investigate the case and file a report. In this manner, the investigation remained inconclusive for nearly three long years with the investigating agency sanguine of passing it off as an accidental death without coming to a firm conclusion avoiding to complete the investigation".

Click here to download the judgment

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