Divulged tapes may impact Sheena’s case

Divulged tapes may impact Sheena’s case

By Pankaj Vohra | 27 August, 2016
There is an attempt to ignite a public debate to influence court deliberations.

The never ending saga of the sensational Sheena Bora murder case continues to baffle, with audio tapes featuring conversations between the prime accused Indrani Mukerjea, her media tycoon husband Peter Mukerjea and his son Rahul being leaked to the media. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which took over the probe of the ghastly killing last year, is yet to conclude its findings despite presenting two charge-sheets before the relevant court. The matter was handed over to the premier investigating agency after the Mumbai police was seen dragging its feet amidst allegations of an attempt being made by some officials to help in the cover up of the crime. The high profile case also led to the then Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria losing his position as the city’s top cop and there were reports published in several newspapers that he had known the Mukerjeas pretty well.

The Sheena Bora case has all the ingredients of a crime potboiler and prior to the arrest of Peter Mukerjea, the investigating agencies had rounded up Indrani, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai in connection with the brutal slaying of the 24-year-old. The latest round of leaks seems to have been prompted by certain vested interests wanting to once again bring the issue into public domain. The manner in which the audio tapes were discussed threadbare on several TV channels gave the impression that there was going to be an extra judicial trial in the case. While the court is already seized of the matter and is examining the evidence presented by the prosecution, there is a clear attempt to influence the deliberations by igniting a public debate.

The CBI, which has taken an inordinately long time to wrap up the case, still remains hazy on the motive of the crime. There has been wild speculation that financial dealings could have led to the conspiracy to eliminate Sheena, yet no clinching evidence to support the claim has been put forward so far. At one point, the CBI detectives were also trying to ascertain whether Peter Mukerjea had at any time developed an intimacy with his wife’s daughter from an earlier marriage. It is imperative for the CBI to first clearly establish the reason for Sheena’s killing in order to strengthen its case against the accused persons.

Peter Mukerjea is considered by many in the Mumbai police as a person who did not actually take part in the conspiracy to do away with Sheena. However, it is assumed that at some stage he got to know that there was something foul that had happened to Sheena, but feigned ignorance given that his wife was allegedly involved in the plot. The leaked tapes now are trying to fill in the gaps and are thus substantiating the belief that Peter was an active participant in the murder and knew all along that Indrani had strangled her daughter and disposed of her body with the help of her other accomplices.

Ideally speaking, such an inference should have been arrived through meticulous investigation based on solid evidence and irrefutable material. However, this is not what has happened and if the tapes have been released by the CBI or the Mumbai police, it is evident that someone wants to ensure that Peter Mukherjee does not get the benefit of doubt at any stage and is shamed and convicted by a media trial much before the court reaches its verdict.

The murder mystery investigations have multiple loopholes. The Mumbai police had faltered from accurately carrying out the nishandehi (re-enactment of the sequence of crime) to collection of incriminatory evidence from the Mukerjea household to begin with. The police conducted the first search of the house eight to ten days after Indrani Mukerjea had been arrested, something which indeed was appalling. The elementary steps taken in every small investigation had not been adhered to and the CBI finally was asked by the anxious Maharashtra government to join the probe. It should not come as a surprise if the Mumbai police has not fully cooperated with the CBI and has instead tried to present a deceptive picture to the detectives.

The court, therefore, has an uphill task of examining the evidence presented to it on one hand and on the other prevent any kind of extra judicial influence to impact the final outcome. There have been high profile cases where the media has succeeded in changing the manner in which the learned judge has been thinking. Therefore, in such cases, the judgements may satisfy journalists, but leave a lot to be desired so far as the implementation of the rule of law is concerned. The Sheena Bora case is by no means an ordinary murder. It is the consequence of a well conceived plot by powerful and influential people. These people also have equally formidable enemies and thus could find themselves at the receiving end of things which they did to others in the past.

The leaked tapes, as such, do not bring any new dimension to the case. Therefore, the CBI should continue to look for strong proof to substantiate any theory that is presented before the court. It is only then that justice would be served to Sheena Bora. Between us.

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