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|October 26, 1998||
CBI bites dust in Sister Abhaya caseD Jose in Thiruvananthapuram
The Central Bureau of Investigation, India's premier investigation agency, has failed to solve the Sister Abhaya murder case that rocked Kerala six years ago.
It is now planning to close the case as 'untracked.'
The agency was directed by a court to track down the murderer of the 21-year-old nun, killed at the Pius 10th Convent Hostel, Kottayam, before October 12, 1998.
The CBI started work in March 1993. It interrogated over a hundred people and conducted 'dummy' tests before arriving at the conclusion that the nun, a pre-degree student of the BCM College, was knocked unconscious on March 27, 1992 before being thrown into the well where her body was found.
However, it failed to trace the culprit.
The agency, which has already wound up investigation, is now expected to submit its final report pleading closure of the case before the Ernakulam chief judicial magistrate shortly.
It is not sure whether the court will accede the CBI's request. In March 1997, it had rejected a similar plea, directing the agency to conduct further investigation 'sincerely, honestly and impartially' and 'without yielding to any pressure' from any corner. Then, the court observed that the agency had not conducted proper investigation, probably due to pressure from some powerful hands. The CJM was of the view that a thorough interrogation of the suspects and others concerned would bring out the truth.
The Sister Abhaya Case Action Council, which has been single-mindedly pursuing the case since 1992, too, feels that the CBI's failure is due to 'powerful influence'. This suspicion gains ground when you consider that Deputy Superintendent Varghese P Thomas, who headed the CBI team that investigated the case initially, had resigned, accusing Superintendent V Thyagarajan of trying to hush up things.
Action Council leaders Lonappan Nampadan, a ruling front MLA, and Jomon Puthenpurackal, its convener, said the investigation team has not progressed beyond the 1997 level. They said the agency has not interrogated the main suspect, who is presently in the United States. They alleged that no steps were taken to summon him during the second phase of investigation.
The leaders claimed the truth could have been easily unearthed had the CBI initiated legal proceedings against Crime Branch Superintendent K T Michel and then revenue divisional officer and present Palakkad Collector S J K Kishore, who destroyed evidence, including the diary and viscera of the nun, even while the case was under the CBI's investigation.
The leaders said that by failing to initiate action against the two, the CBI also seems to have joined the cover-up operation.
The Action Council has already sought permission from the government to prosecute the two officers. Nampadan and Jomon said they would approach the high court again if the government failed to grant sanction for initiating legal proceedings against them.
The hurried disposal of the nun's personal belongings clearly shows that the officials knew the culprits, the leaders said.
The destruction of evidence was only one of the many intrigues surrounding the case. The state police, including the Crime Branch, were quick to dismiss it as a case of suicide. Public outcry, however, forced the CBI to enter the picture.
The investigation sparked a controversy when Varghese Thomas tendered his resignation. The CBI deputed a fresh team from New Delhi in July 1994, even as the Action Council filed a petition before the Kerala high court for the superintendent's removal.
The Action Council now plans to mount a campaign against the CBI in the light of its failure to prove any case it investigated in Kerala after the sensational Soman murder case in 1982. Among the CBI's failures are the Sukumaran death and Moulavi abduction cases.
The Pius 10th Hostel, the scene of the murder, is a place where working women and students stay in addition to nuns. The hostel was in news during the time of the incident as a couple of inmates had run away with some boys.
On the fateful day, Sister Abhaya, who became a nun in 1990, had got up early for studies and gone to the kitchen to wash her face. That was the last anyone saw her alive.
The post-mortem report stated the cause of the death as 'drowning.' However, certain wounds found on her body remained unexplainable, raising doubts.
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