More than a year after the death of 25-year-old actor Jiah Khan, the Bombay High Court on Thursday transferred the investigation into her death to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The court, however, expressed its displeasure over the central agency that asked it not to transfer the case to it, citing shortage of manpower and logistics.
“We are surprised and anguished by the stand taken by the CBI…. if the CBI has difficulties like logistical support or other support, a request should have been made to the court to direct the state to provide support. Ultimately the interest of the citizen is of paramount importance.
An agency like the CBI cannot say that they don’t have infrastructure and personnel. When a crime is committed, it is an offence against society and it is the duty of the state to protect citizens,” a bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode observed.
While the Mumbai police had chargesheeted Khan’s former boyfriend Sooraj Pancholi, son of actors Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab, for abetting her suicide, her mother Rabya Khan alleged her daughter’s death was homicidal and urged the court to transfer the case to an independent agency.
Rabya had claimed there were injury marks on her daughter’s body that were not sufficiently explained in the post-mortem report.
On June 3, 2013, Jiah, a US national, allegedly committed suicide in her Juhu residence by hanging herself. Four days later, her sister Kavita found a six-page latter allegedly written by the actor giving an account of her troubled relationship with Sooraj and an abortion that she underwent.
Additional public prosecutor Purnima Kantharia told the court that the police had examined the case from all angles including that of homicide, but had found nothing.
The court felt that an independent agency like the CBI should probe the case.
CBI’s counsel Rebecca Gonsalves told the court the agency had just 11 officers and the court had recently transferred the probe in cases of custodial deaths to the CBI. “If CBI has the audacity of making such a submission that we don’t have infrastructure and officers, one wonders where the citizens are supposed to go,” the court said.
The court then cited the example of two US consulate officials who attended the court hearings in the case. “Unfortunately we cannot direct the FBI.
But just see the kind of concern shown by the US government over the death of a citizen. The CBI should say that we are there to help, but instead the CBI says we have no officers,” Justice Kanade said.