Ordering a CBI probe into the murders of a journalist and three of his family members, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has observed that the line of investigation may have been changed with some ulterior motive.
Chandrika Rai, an Umaria-based stringer for Hindi newspapers, his wife and two children were found murdered in February 2012 in their house, which was locked from the outside.
The police, after initially linking the murders to the kidnapping of a government officer’s son, later arrested Rai’s driver, saying he had confessed to the crime.
But a division bench of the High Court found several inconsistencies in the investigation and came down heavily on the police while handing over the probe to the CBI. Justices K K Lahoti and U C Maheshwari said the police investigation was not fair and impartial. The Bench said it appeared that the probe began in the right direction, but was changed and “the real culprits against whom prima facie evidence was collected at the initial stage and who had admitted to committing the crime were left free and only the driver made an accused”.
The Bench held that to ensure that the faith of appellants and people at large remains intact in the system, a fresh investigation by an agency from outside the state was required.
One of Rai’s younger brothers and a brother-in-law had filed separate writ appeals seeking a CBI probe, contending that Rai had waged a war against coal and land mafias of Shahdol and Umaria regions as well as local politicians who protected them.
After a news story filed by Rai, authorities intercepted and seized coal worth Rs 80 lakh that was being illegally transported, the PILs claimed, adding that on another occasion, his story led to the cancellation of a mining tender that was illegally allotted. The PILs claimed Rai faced a threat to his life because 58 cases were registered against those involved in illegal mining on the basis of his stories.
The appeals claimed that Rai was on the verge of exposing “some very eminent persons” who had a role in the kidnapping of a sub-divisional officer’s seven-year-old son.
On February 24, 2012, five days after the murders, the Superintendent of Police, Umaria, held a press conference to declare that the kidnapping case and murders had been solved. The police claimed Rai was blackmailing the kidnappers by threatening to expose them in print, and was murdered in retaliation. The Umaria police arrested two persons, Vidhyaniwas Tiwari and Amit Singh, and said the duo had confessed to both crimes.