“Were you, at any point of time, in a relationship with Sheena?” was one of the questions asked by the Central Bureau of Investigation to former media tycoon Peter Mukerjea during his polygraph test in the first half of the day on Saturday at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in New Delhi. This was revealed to The Sunday Guardian by a source close to the investigation.
As per reliable sources, a lawyer accompanied Peter Mukerjea to the laboratory during the test. CBI sources said the test was conducted smoothly. “It was conducted in two parts. He was asked a few questions for a couple of hours in the morning. Then, after a break, he was asked the remaining questions,” sources close to the probe said.
The other questions asked revolved around the financial details and transactions between Peter, Indrani and Sheena. Through a lengthy objective questionnaire, he was asked whether he was aware of any accounts or properties in the name of Sheena Bora. He was also asked if he had opened any account in Sheena’s name.
Several questions were asked on whether he knew of the murder plot. Indrani Mukerjea, the second wife of Peter Mukerjea, has been accused of killing her own daughter Sheena Bora from an earlier relationship, with the help of her driver and former husband. The CBI is now probing if Peter was aware of this.
He has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder case. A day after the CBI moved an application before a Delhi court for conducting a polygraph test on Mukerjea, the accused was taken to New Delhi’s Central Forensic Science Laboratory on Saturday morning. “Yes, a polygraph test was conducted on Peter Mukerjea today,” said Kushal Mor, a member of the legal team representing Peter Mukerjea. He refused to give any further details though.
Meanwhile, in what could be termed as a glaring error, the CBI seems to have moved the wrong court for seeking permission to conduct the polygraph test. The special CBI court, which allowed the CBI to conduct the polygraph test, had no jurisdiction to do so, a senior lawyer said. “The FIR in this matter has been filed in a Mumbai court. The Mumbai court has exclusive jurisdiction in the matter. The test can be conducted anywhere else in the country, but the permission will have to be sought from the Mumbai court. What the CBI has done is legally incorrect,” Y.P. Singh, IPS officer-turned-lawyer, told The Sunday Guardian.
Speculation is rife in the crime circuit in Mumbai about the CBI’s handling of the case. The FIR in the matter has been registered in New Delhi, and not in Mumbai where the accused resides. Moreover, after two of the three CBI remands granted to Peter Mukerjea, he was flown to New Delhi for interrogation, and this despite the fact that a handful of CBI officers from Delhi had flown in to Mumbai to probe the matter. “Is this an attempt to keep the Mumbai police out of the probe?” asked a person closely associated with the case. But Y.P. Singh said that there was nothing unusual about registering an FIR in New Delhi and taking the accused there for the probe. “Until you bring the accused back before the remand, there is no problem whatsoever,” he said.
Just a few months ago, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria was unceremoniously posted out and given a promotion, after he was deemed to be showing too much interest in the case. Maria personally oversaw the probe and questioned the main accused, Indrani Mukerjea.
‘ASG APPEARING FOR REMAND IS UNUSUAL’
Also, currently, in an unusual move, the CBI has engaged Additional Solicitor General of Maharashtra, Anil Singh to appear in the case. Though all the remand applications are signed by CBI’s Special Public Prosecutor B.B. Badami, the arguments are tendered by Mr Singh. It is unusual for the ASG to appear in matters of CBI remand in the lower court,” lawyers said.
“It is very strange. I don’t remember any other precedent of a law officer (of the stature of ASG) appearing in lower court for a regular remand. They have appeared in the high court to oppose bail, and to represent the state or the Central agency in other crucial matters. But an ASG appearing for remand is very strange,” said a senior lawyer practising in the Bombay High Court.
Moreover, the lawyers representing Peter Mukerjea have said that the CBI has failed to make any substantial case against the accused. They alleged that the CBI has also failed to show any connection between the financial transactions and the murder case.
“What has happened suddenly that Peter has been made an accused? The CBI has failed to justify any case against him in this matter. They have failed to justify any further CBI custody too. I was expecting a better remand application than this, now that we have a new CBI team from Delhi looking into the matter, and now that the ASG himself is appearing for the CBI,” said advocate Mihir Gheewala, while arguing against the CBI’s remand application before the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate for CBI cases.
“It is very rare for a legal officer of that stature to appear for remand. But it is not impermissible by law. I can definitely say, it is the rarest of rare case. The CBI must have found itself on shaky grounds, therefore it engaged the ASG,” said Y.P. Singh.
The CBI has already conducted Peter Mukerjea’s forensic psychological test. The result is still awaited. It has also sought Interpol’s help to seek details of the financial transactions of his nine companies. The CBI has said that transactions worth Rs 900 crore have taken place, according to the internal audit conducted in 2009.
During the last remand, ASG Anil Singh told the Mumbai court that Peter Mukerjea said an account might have been opened in HSBC Bank, Singapore in the name of Sheena by Indrani. He said that Indrani might have requested her friend Gayatri Ahuja, who worked in DBS Bank, Singapore, to open the account.
As he argued in court, a thoughtful Peter Mukerjea kept reacting to the allegations levelled against him. When the ASG read out a part of the remand application, which stated that large funds had been siphoned from 9X to other companies floated in India and abroad, Peter shook his head vigorously, denying the allegation. When the ASG said, “this is not an ordinary crime, but a heinous crime where a child has been killed by her own mother and the body has been disposed of in peculiar conditions,” Peter nodded his head.
When the ASG told the court that Peter was involved in the conspiracy as he did not inform any authorities about the disappearance of his step-daughter, Peter kept muttering to himself.
Dressed in a white shirt and beige trousers, he did not talk to the journalists surrounding him. But inside the court, he kept signalling to his younger son about the weight he had lost in custody. He jokingly signalled at his loose trousers, even as the CBI officers surrounding him were busy discussing about the queries raised by the magistrate. Investigating Officer K.K. Singh, a man of few words, answered the questions of the court in such low tones that nobody except the magistrate could hear him.
Relaxed verbal exchanges were seen between the CBI team and Peter Mukerjea, even as the latter told the court that he did not have any complaints against the CBI’s custodial treatment. Outside the courtroom, a CBI official candidly said, “We are very friendly to the accused. We don’t torture them. Hum pyaar se baat karte hein, aur jo information chahiye wo bhi pyaar se hi nikal lete hein.”
Meanwhile, Peter Mukerjea’s family has issued a statement requesting the media to abstain from speculative reporting. “We would like to state from the outset that we recognise the importance of a free and responsible media. Further, we would also like to state that we trust the investigating agencies will continue to do their hard work with honesty and sincerity to seek justice in the case. Peter Mukerjea’s arrest has shocked our family and friends around the world. This has been a trying time for the family as it would be for anyone in similar circumstances. Peter is a much loved member of the family, known for his generous and compassionate nature and an honourable and impeccable reputation. The whole family is confident of Peter’s innocence and we are in no doubt that the due process will ultimately reveal this,” it said.
“It would be best at this time that the agencies are allowed to conduct their work in an unhampered manner — without irresponsible conclusions being arrived at in the interim period by any party. We trust that the media recognises that this matter concerns the privacy, reputation and image of a self-made and respected individual and his family that has already suffered trauma in this case… We also feel that unbridled speculation in the media about Peter’s culpability apart from being hurtful is counterproductive to a smooth and fair investigation and trial,” it stated further.