“The CBI is directed to investigate the case in question, viz. Whereabouts of Rajnandini who is alleged to have been taken away by the forest officials on February 10, 2011 and submit its report before the court concerned within a period of six months thereafter,” a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said.
The bench, also comprising justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, asked the state police to hand over all the documents to CBI within two weeks from the date of receipt of copy of the order.
The girl, belonging to denotified tribe ‘Pardhi’, was allegedly taken away by the Forest department officials from the fish market at Betul on the evening of February 10, 2011.
It was also claimed that a woman, who was also being taken away with the minor girl in a jeep of the department, escaped by jumping out of the vehicle. They were accused of selling prohibited birds ‘titar and bater’ in the market.
The allegations were denied by the forest department which said two other women were detained for selling prohibited birds but they fled with the help of ‘Pardhi’ community people who had reached the spot.
The apex court took note of the fact that despite having contrary versions, the police did not record the statements of locals and only took the versions of forest department officials.
“In the light of the said infirmity and in view of the categorical statement of … Under Section 164 of the Code before the Magistrate, we are prima facie satisfied that proper and sincere efforts were not made by the state police in tracing/producing the girl before the High Court in a habeas corpus petition,” it said.
The court, in its judgment, said that “based on the complaint of the appellant, the IO has only recorded the statements of the officials of the Forest Department. It is not clear as to why the police authorities did not inquire about the same from the persons present at the spot when both the women were picked up from a busy fish market….”.
It said that for reasons best known to the police, they did not “examine anyone or obtained statements from the local people available within the area in question.”
While ordering a CBI probe, it took note of submission of advocate Prashant Bhushan that the members of the Pardhi community have been “constantly harassed by the police and forest officials” and said “we feel that the appellant has made out a case for fresh investigation by other agency, viz., Central Bureau of Investigation.”