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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

CBI denies pressure in Mattoo case

Central Bureau of Investigation counsel Amrendra Sharan today denied in the Delhi High Court any pressure on the agency investigating the Priyadarshini Mattoo murder case.
''Whose pressure was there?'' asked Justice P K Bhasin of the Division Bench following the ''unexplained delay'' of four days in making available the postmortem report. The observations assumed significance in view of damning comment by the Sessions Court against the CBI. ''Though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of doubt,'' the court had said.

The court had accused CBI of keeping away evidence collected by it and fabricating documentary evidence, and had even cast doubts on the DNA report.
Twenty-three year old Delhi University law student, Priyadarshini, was allegedly raped and murdered by Santosh Singh at her South Delhi apartment on January 23, 1996. However, the postportem report was available only on January 29.

Mr Sharan explained the delay on two accounts--firstly the case was transferred from Delhi police to the CBI on January 25 night because Santosh was the son of J P Singh, who was at that time a serving Delhi Police officer. Secondly, January 26 was a holiday being Republic Day. Two subsequent days being Saturday and Sunday respectively, the report couldn't have been handed over until January 29, he added.

However, the High Court judges asked, "So what? Don't the police work on holidays?'' Although the CBI counsel replied that the agency officials did not come to offices on Saturdays, the judges observed short of pulling up the agency, ''The investigating officer might have been more efficient'' and asked if there was any pressure on the agency.

Denying the allegations, the CBI counsel appeared to fumble for words before calling the trial court judgement erroneous and contradictory. Mr Sharan said the sessions' court had failed to appreciate evidence, including the fact.

Priyadarshini was strangled at her South Delhi apartment with 19 injuries on her person. Santosh was Mattoo's senior at the Faculty of Law and had been stalking her for sometime.
The evidence, mostly circumstantial included the fact that Priyadarshini had even lodged a complaint with the Maurice Nagar police station against Santosh stalking her. She met the then Commissioner of Police and even got security. On the day of the murder, a neighbour had seen Santosh outside Priyadarshini's home.

The CBI later instituted an internal inquiry and challenged the trial court's competence regarding DNA tests. The CBI review petition filed in 2000 with the Delhi High Court took six years to be listed. It followed nationwide public pressure after the acquittal of the main accused in the Jessica Lall case.



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