THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: "I couldn’t write it off as a perfect crime that left no room for any clinching evidence. It was a simple murder case which could be cracked by any efficient Kerala Police officer. That was the reason why I had rejected the closure report stating that the accused couldn’t be traced," said PD Sarangadharan, former Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ernakulam, who rejected the CBI's report in 2007.
In fact, Abhaya murder had garnered limelight due to the several attempts made to cover up and sabotage the course of investigation. Speaking to The New Indian Express, Sarangadharan recalled that it was a TNIE report that played a crucial role in keeping alive the Abhaya case in public memory and social consciousness.
In fact, it was the rejection by three former magistrates - KK Utharan and Antony Moraes being the other two - that had finally got the course of investigation in the Abhaya case moving in the right direction. Attempts by different investigation officers to wind up the case at different points in time proved futile, thanks to these magistrates.
Sarangadharan said the CBI report had termed it as a murder but said the culprits could not be traced. "I didn’t think it was a murder case that could not be solved. The murder happened inside a convent hostel with a boundary wall, not in a deserted place or inside a forest. Such a closure report was hence unacceptable," he said.
Sarangadharan also got some crucial evidence regarding the case. He got an anonymous letter mentioning that Sr Abhaya’s samples were tampered with. The letter was handed over to the then CBI SP. “Later, a report by B Sreejan appeared in TNIE, which generated lot of discussion about Abhaya murder among the masses. In fact, TNIE played a crucial role in keeping the case and related discussions alive in public memory,” he said. Such developments proved crucial to the case, he added.
Later when the CBI filed its progress report before the High Court, Justice V Ramkumar also directed that the case should not be left unsolved. “Looking at the Crime Diary, it was evident that it was a simple case of murder. Pious X Convent has a compound wall. Not many can enter. There were four dogs present on the ground. Naturally, if a stranger had entered, they would know.
The fact that no such out-of-the-way developments were reported shows that it was committed by someone known to the inmates. That is why I refused to write it off as a perfect murder that could not be solved,” he said. Sarangadharan, who retired from judicial service in 2017, is now practising at the Kerala High Court.