Bara trial: Defence counsel questions change of diary

The Times of India News Service

GAYA: Strongly defending the 13 accused facing trial in the much-publicised Bara massacre in which 35 adult Bhumihars were slaughtered by the MCC killing squad, eminent lawyer of the state and former advocate general Tarakant Jha told the designated TADA court Thursday that the investigation into the case was done in a casual, non- serious and whimsical manner and, as such, the prosecution story lacked substance and credibility. The TADA court is hearing arguments in camera in the official chamber of district and sessions judge Jawahar Lal Chaudhary.

Arguing the case on behalf of Bihari Manjhi, the main accused and 12 others, Jha wanted to know as to what were the circumstances in which Ram Japit Kunwar, the investigating officer (IO) of the case, was changed and where is the case diary containing the findings of the first IO in the case. Besides, by conducting the investigation in an unfair and improper manner, the prosecution was concealing vital records of the case from the court, he said.

Ripping apart the version of Sureshwar Sharma, prosecution witness number 17 and second IO of the case, Jha quoted from the court records where, during his examination, Sharma told the special court that Kunwar, the first IO, was changed because he belonged to the same social group of Dalits to which the accused belonged. He also referred to the version of the second IO that he was made the IO because he belonged to the same caste to which the victims belonged.

Emphasising that the caste bias was apparent in the investigation, the former advocate general also said that the IO was changed on the verbal orders of Sunil Kumar, the then Gaya superintendent of police. Verbal orders in such an important matter constituted a major impropriety on the part of the police officer and it also created serious doubts about the credibility of the investigation.

Referring to the evidence tendered by the then SP Kumar in the court of the special TADA judge -cum- district and sessions judge, Jha said that the SP was on record having told the court that he let off seven persons about whom a member of Parliament said that they were not involved in the carnage. The irony of ironies was that the SP did not even remember the name of the MP.

Moreover, the then SP, while in the witness box, could not even recognise Bihari Manjhi with whom he claimed to have spent more than seven hours during his (Manjhi's) interrogation and the recording of his confessional statement. Jha also referred to the Supreme Court directive in the Kartar Singh case on the mode of investigation and the rank of the IO of the TADA cases. The TADA cases, according to the Supreme Court ruling, could not be investigated by an officer below the rank of the deputy superintendent of police. In the Bara case, the IO was an officer of the sub-inspector rank.

During his argument spread over nearly two hours, the defence lawyer also wondered as to how some of the witnesses would recognise three or four people in the darkness of night in a group of 700 marauders, who, according to the prosecution witnesses, were all wearing police uniforms.

The defence lawyer is likely to conclude his arguments in the all important massacre trial Friday. The TADA judge may pronounce his verdict before the end of the month of May, 2001. The trials have already been delayed as the massacre took place in the night of February 12, 1992.

Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 12, 2001
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