Justice Ananda Sen of the Jharkhand High Court lambasted the Jharkhand Police for not investigating with utmost responsibility the heinous incident of a 15-year-old girl’s gruesome murder. The Court has directed M V Rao, the Director General of Police, Jharkhand, to immediately constitute a SIT to investigate this case of Shankar Paswan v The State of Jharkhand and Ors. Mr. Arvind Kumar represented the Petitioner and Mr. Rajiv Ranjan, Advocate General argued for the State.
Brief background of the case
According to an FIR filed on March 31, 2020 filed by one Shankar Paswan, the accused had poured kerosene oil on the girl, a resident of Giridih, and set her on fire. Her father said that the family had caught hold of the accused when he was trying to escape by removing the tiles of the roof of the house, but his relatives came to his rescue. Justice Ananda Sen noted that although there was no delay in lodging an FIR, the investigation lacked consistency and expressed his surprise at the “very casual manner” in which the Investigating Officer decided to proceed with the case.
“The way the investigation proceeded is absolutely unsatisfactory. No seriousness is shown by the Investigating Officer nor even by the supervising authority in this case. The urgency is absolutely lacking. This court cannot keep its eyes shut and ignore this type of lackluster and shoddy investigation. Seriousness and urgency ought to have been shown by the investigating authorities. They have miserably failed as there is no substantial progress in the investigation even after lapse of six months”, he commented sternly.
The Single-judge Bench countered the honour killing narrative presented by the Investigating authorities by saying that, “This court is not going into all these aspects. The fact remains that a young girl of 15 years was brutally burnt to death, be it by the accused named in the FIR or anyone else. Even if the theory of the State is accepted that this can be a case of honour killing then also the same is more heinous. This heinous incident needs immediate and proper investigation to bring to light the correct fact and to book the real accused persons.”
The Court also pulled up the State Police for a more than 14-day delay in collecting forensic evidence. The order notes that, “It is worthwhile to mention here that Doctor opined that the vaginal swab should be sent to FSL, Ranchi for examination. The next date of activity of the Investigating Officer is 5th May 2020, which is more than 14 days. On that day he obtains permission from the court to send the swab to the FSL. On next day, i.e. 6th May 2020, the I.O. obtains a letter from the hospital to send the swab to the laboratory. Surprisingly rather shockingly the swab was sent to the laboratory only on 20th May 2020 i.e. after 14 days. In the entire case diary, there is no explanation about the delay caused. This is how an investigation is going on of a most heinous crime.”
On being informed that the accused is still roaming scot free, the Court remarked that, “Surprisingly enough I don’t find anything to suggest that the police have ever made an attempt to arrest the named accused persons.”
Taking cognisance of the heinousness of the crime and irresponsibility of the State Police, the Court directed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to be set up with senior officers leading the investigation. The Single-judge Bench ordered that, “Since from the case diary I find that the investigation has not been done in a proper manner and no urgency or seriousness is shown by the present investigator, I think this is a fit case where a SPECIAL INVESTIGATING TEAM (SIT) be constituted.” This team was given the discretion to make justified arrests and prevent witnesses from getting hostile, as directed by the Court.
A similar case of alleged gang rape and murder conspired on September 14, 2020 with a young Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. This led to the Allahabad High Court taking Suo Moto cognisance of the atrocity on October 1, 2020 to ascertain the facts of the case and alleged botched up investigation by the Uttar Pradesh Police.
The order may be read here: