Almost a month after the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court asked the state director general of police to probe the disappearances of people from Shirdi over the last three years, a communication received by the HC’s public prosecutor’s office from the special inspector general of police (Law and Order) stated that the investigation will take another six weeks.
The reason cited is that data will have to be retrieved from the cellphone of Deepti Soni, who had been missing since August 10, 2017. While hearing a petition filed by Deepti’s husband Manoj Soni, a driver from Indore, the HC had, on October 29, expressed dissatisfaction over the Shirdi police’s investigation in the case and asked the DGP to step in to also trace persons who went missing in a similar manner and “more importantly, unravel the mystery of the missing persons vis-a-vis a human trafficking/organ trafficking racket”.
According to the data placed before the court last month by the Shirdi police, 279 people were reported missing from Shirdi between 2017 and October 27, 2020. Of them, 67 still remain untraced.
In his communication, Special IG (Law and Order) Suhas Warke said that the DGP held a discussion with the Ahmednagar superintendent of police and the concerned investigating officers from Shirdi on November 12 and called for all relevant documents.
He added that following instructions from the DGP, the SP formed probe teams under his supervision to trace Deepti. Teams have also been sent to “various places” to gather information. Further, information is being sought on certain technical issues from various agencies. He stated that data from Deepti’s cellphone will have to be retrieved.
In his communication, which was placed before a bench of Justice T V Nalawade and Justice S D Kulkarni on Tuesday, Warke added, “Data in the mobile handset of the missing lady was completely deleted, which is very pertinent to note. Mobile handset is in the custody of the investigating agency, complete data which was deleted will have to be retrieved. The mobile handset will be sent to the Forensic Laboratory, Kalina, Mumbai for retrieving the data of the IMIE number/mobile phone, which was being used by the missing person.”
While submitting that the forensic laboratory report will take some time, he added: “The investigation is in process and six week time is still needed for further probe.”
Manoj’s lawyer Sushant Dixit said that Deepti had left her cellphone in the hotel room where the couple had stayed in Shirdi in August 2017. The phone was given to the police after Manoj filed the missing person complaint.
Warke also told the HC that the DGP “has taken this matter very seriously and monitoring the progress in tracing the missing wife of the petitioner”. He, however, requested the court to grant them eight weeks to submit a report of further investigation in the case.
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