The Bombay high court on Thursday transferred the probe into the case of alleged suicide by actress Jiah Khan to the CBI from the Juhu Police even though the central intelligence agency was reluctant to take it up due to lack of "sufficient" man power.
A division bench of justices VM Kanade and PD Kode admonished the agency which had pleaded with the court not to transfer the case as it was overburdened. The HC, in the last two months, has transferred three other cases from the local police to the CBI.
CBI counsel Rebbeca Gonzalves submitted that the agency had only 11 officers and three of them were busy handling cases from Gujarat which required them to attend courts every day. She also cited Supreme Court judgments that said courts should pass cases to CBI only sparingly, and only in exceptional circumstances.
The bench expressed surprise at the submission and said: "In a country with over one billion population, the CBI has the audacity to tell the court that they have only 11 officers." It added that the agency should come forward to probe a case if a high court found it necessary that it should be investigated by an independent agency.
Comparing CBI to FBI, the US investigating agency that expressed willingness to probe the case as Khan was a US national, the court said: "See the concern shown by the US administration towards the death of their citizen, and see the attitude of the CBI."
The bench also said: "You cannot shun your responsibility; an agency like the CBI cannot come up with an excuse that it does not have adequate manpower and machinery to investigate cases. Ultimately, it is the duty of the state to protect the lives of citizens and to maintain law and order."
Justice Kanade, however, did not find any fault with the investigation carried out by the Juhu Police, but found it necessary to transfer the case in order to unearth the truth.
The investigation was transferred after the court went into the evidence compiled in the charge sheet by the Juhu police against the accused, actor Sooraj Pancholi, minutely. The court felt Juhu Police had failed to investigate the angle of possible murder. "The possibility of someone entering through the window (and escaping without getting noticed after killing the 25-year-old) ought to have been investigated properly," the court said.
Rabiya Khan, mother of the deceased, had moved the high court seeking transfer of probe to the CBI, alleging that her daughter could not have committed suicide and had been murdered.
Her counsel, Subhash Jha, argued that the police investigation was far from satisfactory and despite orders of the court, they had not probed the murder angle. Relying on reports of two forensic experts, he also claimed the post mortem had not been conducted properly as it had missed a few injury marks on the body.
Public prosecutor Poornima Kantharia countered by saying the police had probed all possible angles.
Jiah was found hanging from the ceiling fan in her Juhu flat on June 3, 2013. The Juhu police had booked her live-in partner, actor Sooraj Pancholi, on charge of abetting the suicide. He is presently out on bail.