WHILE REJECTING an argument of Chandigarh Police that collection of CCTV footage is not “normal part” of an investigation, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Chandigarh DGP to apprise it of the action proposed to be taken against an investigating officer, who failed to collect the relevant CCTV footage from hospitals while probing a murder case.
“I find that contention very difficult to accept, in todays’ day and age, where CCTV cameras are installed in most public places and even by private establishments, and are not of very recent region but since the past 10-15 years and more,” Justice Amol Rattan Singh has said in an order released on Wednesday.
The court said that if a person designated as an investigating officer cannot even “by basic intelligence” try and collect at least such basic evidence, “there would either have to be complete callousness of purpose or possibly a deliberate avoidance of collection of such evidence”. The DGP has been asked to look into the matter personally.
The order has been passed in a murder case in which the victim’s family allege involvement of two police officials, including a retired cop. The only accused facing trial for the murder has claimed to have instead attempted to help the victim when 31-year-old Ajay was stabbed in August last year near the Shastri Nagar light point. The High Court is hearing a petition filed by the victim’s father Ram Avtar for proper investigation as well as the bail plea of Deepak, who had been in prison for a year and four months before he was granted interim bail by the court on December 17.
On December 17, the court while granting interim bail to the accused had also directed the DGP to constitute a new special investigation team for a further probe into the matter. The SIT is to be headed by an IPS officer and no member of the SIT is to be of the local cadre, as per the order. The exclusion of any local cadre officer in the SIT has been ordered considering the victim family’s allegations that a Sub-Inspector and his brother, a retired police official, is involved in the murder. The SIT has to file a status report on January 23.
The victim’s family had earlier demanded a CBI probe in the case while submitting that the CCTV footage was to be collected within a reasonable time from the hospitals but even such basic investigation has not been done. As per accused Deepak, the CCTV footage shows him helping the victim. Deepak last year had sought preservation of the CCTV record but the police had made a request to the hospitals, including PGI, for preservation of same only a year after the incident. The hospitals had replied the footage is no more available.
The court in the order noted that the CCTV footage could have been obtained to see who brought the victim to the hospital and who all visited the hospital at the relevant time as the victim family has also alleged that one of two cops, who they suspect of being involved in the murder, had also visited the hospital at the relevant time and allegedly attempted to influence even the doctors.
Meanwhile, the court has also directed the police to ensure protection of witnesses and the victim’s family, including his wife, in view of the fact that accused Deepak lives on the same street where the victim family lives.
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