NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday set aside a closure report filed by Rajasthan Police and ordered fresh probe into the mysterious death of a third-year student of National Law University, Jodhpur, in August 2017, saying it was needed to sustain the "confidence of the society" in rule of law.
The apex court said the probe be conducted by a fresh team of investigators headed by a senior police official and it must be concluded within two months from today.
A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman said the closure report, holding that though the death was homicidal but there was no clue, was a "clear hasty action" and the entire investigation lacked bona fide.
"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," said the bench, also comprising Justices Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee.
The top court delivered its verdict on a plea filed by Neetu Kumar Nagaich, mother of the victim Vikrant Nagaich (21), seeking a direction for transfer of the case to the CBI to "solve the mystery of the unnatural death" on the intervening night of August 13-14, 2017.
The petitioner, through her lawyer Sunil Fernandes, raised questions over the state police's probe and requested the bench to set aside the closure report and order fresh investigation.
In its verdict, the bench noted that closure report filed before it by the police "accepts it as a homicidal death but concludes that there is no clue who the offenders were."
Referring to an earlier judgement of the apex court, the bench noted that a fair investigation is as much a part of a constitutional right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution as a fair trial.
"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," the bench said.
After the apex court ordered on July 8 that investigation be concluded within two months and the final report be placed before it, then suddenly a "very lengthy investigation closure report" was filed, the bench said.
"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," it said.
The bench noted that police had earlier contended before the Rajasthan High Court and also in its counter affidavit filed in the apex court on July 3 that the death was accidental in nature.
"The conclusion in the closure report dated September 3, 2020 then does a volte face to acknowledge a homicidal death with no clue, ruling out an accidental death by collision with a train. It does not leave much to the imagination that the deceased was not assaulted at the railway track but elsewhere," it noted.
The bench directed that probe be conducted by a fresh team of investigators to be headed by a senior police officer of state consisting of efficient personnel well conversant with use of modern investigation technology.
"No officer who was part of the investigating team leading to the closure report shall be part of the team conducting de novo investigation," it said, adding, "Much time has passed and there is undoubtedly an urgency in the matter now."
It said that fresh investigation be concluded within two months and police report be filed before the court concerned.
While saying that an FIR was lodged in the case after a delay of around 10 months in June 2018, the petitioner had alleged that manner in which the probe was conducted "leads to an inescapable reasonable apprehension" that it is a result of a "probable collusion to shield some high, mighty and influential person(s)".
It had said that on August 13, 2017 the victim went to a restaurant, around 300 metres from the university campus, with his friends in the evening but he did not return, and his body was found the next morning near a railway track.
The plea alleged that police neither approached Google or Facebook nor retrieved the victim's mobile phone data which could have helped in tracing his movement to ascertain the events on the night of August 13, 2017.
It claimed that the police have also not retrieved the victim's chat conversations of the night of the incident from WhatsApp.