NLU Jodhpur student’s death| SC orders fresh investigation by a new Investigation team after Rajasthan Police hastily submits a ‘very lengthy’ closure report

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, JJ has directed a de novo investigation into the suspicious death of National Law University (NLU)-Jodhpur student Vikrant Nagaich in 2017.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

The third-year law student, Vikrant was found dead on August 14, 2017, under unnatural circumstances near a railway track opposite the university. As per the authorities, the student committed suicide due to alleged depression.

Neetu Kumar Nagaich, the mother of the deceased student, had sought transfer of the investigation in the case from the Rajasthan police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). She approached the court and accused the state police of “lackadaisical and callous manner of the probe” into the FIR lodged on June 29, 2018, with Jodhpur’s Mandore police station. She has sought an independent inquiry while complaining of a shoddy probe with probable collusion to shield some influentials.

She that the FIR in the case was not registered for a period of 10 months from the date when the incident occurred, and was reluctantly filed thereafter. Three years since, the investigation is at a standstill with no progress and no chargesheet filed in the case, stated the plea. In the plea, she added that the state was “criminally negligent in the investigation” or was “trying to cover” up for the perpetrators or had some malafide intention.

KEY FACTS TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION BY THE COURT

  • The occurrence took place in the intervening night of 13.08.2017 and 14.08.2017.
  • The inquest proceedings under Section 174 Cr.P.C. were registered on 14.08.2017 but remained inconclusive, and in view of the closure report deserves to be consigned. The death of the deceased was initially sought to be passed off as accidental by collision with a train or suicidal due to depression.
  • The F.I.R. under Section 302, IPC was registered very much belatedly on 29.06.2018, albeit reluctantly, only at the persistence of the petitioner and her husband after they repeatedly approached the higher authorities.
  • Even thereafter the investigation remained at a standstill till the filing of the counter affidavit before this Court as recent as 03.07.2020 with the respondents insisting that the death was accidental and that the nature of injuries could not attribute a homicidal death.
  • Earlier the husband of the petitioner had also petitioned the High Court where till 20.07.2019 the respondents insisted that the death was accidental in nature.
  • The Supreme Court had, on 08.07.2020, directed the completion of investigation within 2 months, after which a ‘very lengthy’ investigation closure report was placed before the Court us taking a stand that though the death was homicidal there was no clue.

COURT’S OBERVATIONS

The Court said that the High Court, despite noticing the long pendency of the investigation, took a misguided approach that the petitioner had not expressed suspicion against any one and neither had he alleged biased against the Investigating Officer, to pass an open ended order to investigate the case and file a report. Hence, the investigation remained inconclusive for nearly three long years with the investigating agency sanguine of passing it off as an accidental death without coming to a firm conclusion avoiding to complete the investigation.

The Court noticed that when, on 08.07.2020, it directed that the investigation be concluded within a period of two months and the final report be placed before it, suddenly a very lengthy investigation closure report was filed taking a stand that though the death was homicidal there was no clue. It, hence, said that

“The closure report is therefore, to our mind, a clear hasty action leaving much to be desired regarding the nature of investigation, because if a detailed investigation had already been done as is sought to be now suggested, there is no reason why a final report could not have been filed by the investigating agency in the normal course of events and needed an order to do so from this Court. The entire investigation and the closure report therefore lack bonafide.”

It was, hence, of the opinion that the interest of justice therefore requires a de novo investigation to be done, to sustain the confidence of the society in the rule of law irrespective of who the actors may be.

DIRECTIONS

  • closure report set aside and a de novo investigation by a fresh team of investigators to be headed by a senior police officer of the State consisting of efficient personnel well conversant with use of modern investigation technology also directed.
  • No officer who was part of the investigating team leading to the closure report shall be part of the team conducting de novo investigation.
  • fresh investigation must be concluded within a maximum period of two months and the police report be filed before the court concerned whereafter the matter shall proceed in accordance with law.

[Neetu Kumar Nagaich v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 741, decided on 16.09.2020]

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