Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why should police talk to media about cases under probe: court

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked the Maharashtra government to file a reply on police officers talking to the media about the J. Dey murder case, while it is under investigation.

Expressing concern over varied reports on the case, a division bench of Justices Ranjana Desai and R.V. More said: “This is not restricted to this case. Why should police officers talk to the media about cases which are under investigation?”

“Which police officers are the media approaching? Or are some police officers approaching the media? Is this a publicity stunt?” the bench asked Advocate-General Ravi Kadam after the lawyer for the intervention petitioner, ‘Press Club' Mumbai, submitted a compilation of newspaper articles about the investigation in the case.

Advocate V.P. Patil and journalists Ketan Tirodkar and S. Balakrishnan had filed separate petitions in the High Court seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the case.

Counsel for the Press Club Navroz Seervai raised questions about the impartiality of the Mumbai Police in probing the J Dey murder case. “How will the police investigate impartially if J Dey had written articles about the nexus between the underworld and a section of the Mumbai Police,” he asked.

“I have a compilation of articles which are very irresponsible. It is shocking to see that the police are deliberately leaking wrong information to the media. They have been contradicting themselves,” Mr. Seervai told the court.

He said the police were leaking information about not just the professional life but also the personal life of J. Dey. “There are only three ladies in the family (J Dey's family) — an ageing mother, a sister who is not 100 per cent normal and the wife. Such articles disturb them,” he said.

There was also a reference to the alleged call of fugitive gangster Chhota Rajan to a TV channel correspondent a few days ago claiming that he ordered the killing. The Advocate-General told the court that the reporter was summoned and his statement was recorded after that.

Justice Ranjana Desai said the police had already made eight arrests. “They should be given more time to find who is behind this.”

“The question is not how much time the Mumbai police will take to crack the case. The question is whether the probe is independent or not. We want to address the qualitative aspect,” she said.

Mr. Seervai claimed that the police had not been able to find the real culprits or the masterminds in the case and had only arrested the “small fish.” “If you leave it to them [Mumbai Police], rest assured, you will not get to the bottom of this,” he said.

National significance

He said the attack on J Dey was of national significance. “This is a part of the frontal attack on our democratic policy itself in the form of brazenly trying to silence the press, which is one of the guardians of Article 19(1)(a) [freedom of speech and expression] of the Constitution,” he said.

The court also directed to State to respond about the allegation of the police-underworld nexus.

Another petitioner Mr. Tirodkar said there was no doubt about the integrity and character of the police. The court will hear the matter on Thursday.

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