OPPOSING THE bail petition of IPS officer Zahur Haider Zaidi in the Kotkhai custodial death case, the CBI, in a written reply before Punjab and Haryana High Court, submitted that he repeatedly tried to intimidate an important witness.
It submitted that IPS officer Soumya Sambasivan, a prosecution witness, had requested Himachal Pradesh’s IGP Armed Police and Training for extra security to travel to Chandigarh for her deposition in January.
Sambasivan was the Shimla superintendent of police (SP) when the crime had taken place in 2017. “The petitioner/accused who had repeatedly tried to intimidate an important witness deserves to be dealt with strictly so that fair trial can be undertaken,” the CBI said, while praying for dismissal of Zaidi’s petition for bail.
Zaidi’s Supreme Court-granted bail was cancelled by a trial court in Chandigarh in January, soon after Sambasivan gave a statement before it that she was pressurised by the accused in an attempt to influence the trial. Zaidi has now approached the High Court for restoration of his bail.
The CBI has told the High Court that Zaidi had threatened her to be prepared for a battery of lawyers and 30 pages of questionnaire for her cross-examination before the trial court. Zaidi, an IGP-rank officer, is under suspension. The case relates to the custodial death of an accused, who had been arrested in a case of alleged rape and murder of a 16-year-old school girl in Kotkhai area of Shimla district. The trial in the 2017 case was transferred to Chandigarh on orders of the Supreme Court.
In response to the argument that the trial court did not wait for conclusion of the inquiry being conducted by the Himachal Pradesh government into Sambasivan’s allegations, the CBI has said that holding of departmental inquiry against the accused by the state government is a separate matter and does not have any bearing on the proceedings related to cancellation of bail.
“No person, especially a government official, will dare to tell a lie on oath specially when she has no personal interest in the case,” the CBI said further, adding that Sambasivan has attached documentary proof of calls with regard to threats received by her.
Countering Zaidi’s contention that Sambasivan’s deposition is not of much consequence in the case against him, the CBI in the reply filed through advocate Sumeet Goel has said that he has mentioned only a few portions of her deposition in the petition with a “malafide intention” to mislead the court.
“She has categorically mentioned in her cross-examination that as the case was transferred to some other agency (CBI), the case property also goes to the said investigating agency. It is pertinent to mention here that the second autopsy of the deceased was conducted by…team of experts of AIIMS on 25.7.2017. She stated that petitioner/accused and co-accused Manoj Joshi, the then deputy SP, had pressurised her for early disposal of the body of deceased Suraj Singh,” the CBI said further.
The agency also said that a number of material witnesses including Zaidi’s subordinates in the Himachal Pradesh police department are yet to be examined before the trial court. The High Court on March 6 was informed that five witnesses have been summoned for March 17 and 18 by the trial court, after which Zaidi’s bail plea was adjourned for hearing on March 25. The statements of at least 28 prosecution witnesses have been recorded so far by the trial court.
Six men were arrested initially by Himachal Police in connection with the Kotkhai minor girl’s rape and murder in 2017.
One of those suspects was later found dead at Kotkhai police station. The nine accused in the case include IGP Zaidi, SP D W Negi; DSP, Theog, Manoj Joshi; former Kotkhai SHO Rajinder Singh, ASI Deep Chand, who was the investigating officer of the case, Head Constables Surat Singh, Mohan Lal and Rafee Mohammad, and Constable Ranjit Steta.
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