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Sister Abhaya case haunts investigators

By Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru
Last updated on: March 02, 2009 16:08 IST
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There is something strange about the Sister Abhaya case. Most officers associated with the case have had a strange turn of events in their lives. The recent ouster of Dr S Malini of the Bangalore Forensic Sciences Laboratory is just another incident.

Here is a list of officials who handled the sensational case in Kerala and how their lives changed since.

It all started with Superintendent of the Kerala Crime Branch  K T Michael, who initially investigated and reported the death as "suicide", obtained written permission from the RDO (Revenue Divisional Officer) Kishore, IAS, to take possession of Abhaya's personal articles -- her veil, footwear, personal diary and such other personal items that are of high evidenciary value from the RDO court. However, all those items which have been considered to be critical evidence, went missing.

On March 20, 1997, the chief judicial magistrate ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to reinvestigate the case. It took very serious exception to the role of the Crime Branch officers, mentioning K T Michael by name for the distorted course of investigation from the beginning. The remarks were later expunged by the Kerala high court.

The CJM observed that certain "invisible hands" were still trying to scuttle the case. It said these forces were trying to influence the investigating agencies and the government officials.

Varghese P Thomas, a CBI officer who was handling this case, came to the conclusion that Sr Abhaya's death was a case of murder and he had recorded it in the case diary. However in December 1993 he resigned from his post.

On January 19, 1994, he called for a press conference in Kochi and announced that he resigned from the CBI as his conscience did not permit him to comply with a strong directive given by his superior officer, V Thyagarajan, the then superintendent of CBI Kochi unit, who had asked Thomas to record the death of Abhaya as suicide in the case diary.

Following this, a writ petition was filed in the Kerala high court seeking the removal of Thyagarajan from the Kochi unit of the CBI. On June 3, 1994, all MPs from Kerala jointly submitted a petition to K Vijaya Rama Rao, the CBI director, requesting him to disallow Thyagarajan to continue in the Abhaya murder case.

As a result of this M L Sharma, the then CBI joint director, was given charge of the investigation into Abhaya's death.
Following this incident there was a lull in the investigations until November 25, 2008.

Assistant sub-inspector of police Augustine, who was part of the invetigation initially, was found dead on November 25, 2008. He committed suicide, alleging torture by the CBI.

Then it was the turn of Dr Malini of the Bangalore FSL.The CBI conducted narco-analysis test on Father Thomas Kuttoor and Father Jose Poothrikkayil, the main two accused in the case.

The test report and CD were sent to the chief judicial magistrate court and to the high court.

There were allegations that the CDs relating to the tests were manipulated. Justice Ramkumar of the Kerala high court sent questionnaires to Dr Malini who conducted the narco-analysis.

The lab denied any manipulation. But Justice Hema, who heard the bail petition of the accused, based on the case diaries, mentioned that the CDs might have been manipulated and wanted the originals to be produced in court.

Dr Malini has since been dismissed from service on the charge of forging her birth certificate.

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