The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday expressed concern over the “faulty and biased” manner in which deaths of foreigners are probed in Goa, and directed the state government to consider setting up a special cell headed by a senior officer for all such mysterious deaths.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Minna Pirhonen, mother of 22-year-old Finnish tourist Felix Dahl, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances in 2015 in Canacona sub-district of south Goa. The probe was given to the CBI after the court noted the absence of a “fair, transparent and judicious” investigation by local police officials, whose “tainted and biased probe” the judges believed could be a result of “incompetence, indifference, prejudice, bias or an outside influence”.
Transferring the case from the hands of “myopic officers at a local police station”, the court observed, “A Constitutional court cannot remain a mute spectator when an apparent faulty and prejudiced investigation is meandering towards a predetermined end.”
In their order, Justices N M Jamdar and Prithviraj K Chavan wrote, “We must take note of an alarming issue highlighted by the Petitioner. That is the number of deaths of foreign tourists in the State of Goa in the last decade… Many of the deaths are put down as accidents, natural death or suicides and there is an outcry about such conclusions… such occurrences themselves and the resultant situations are not conducive for the perception about the existence of the Rule of Law.”
The court took note of RTI information and official statistics, which peg foreigner deaths at 245 in 21 years. The court also emphasised the importance of probing incidents that have national and international ramifications. “Goa attracts a large number of foreign tourists. South Goa, with its evergreen forests and white sand beaches, is a particularly favorite destination for the foreign tourists. Tourism is a substantial revenue earner for the State.
The State Government is taking various initiatives to encourage regulated tourism, at the national and international level. An essential concomitant of any tourism policy is the safety of the tourists… The deaths of tourists cannot be left in the realm of suspicion. Inept and prejudiced investigations damage the perception about the existence of the Rule of Law…”