VR Jayaraj | Kochi
The observations of a judge in the Kerala High Court in a murder case have sown uncertainty over the legal validity several crucial Government cases in the national-level, including those related to anti-national activities, like the terror attacks in Mumbai. The judge's observations have also sparked off perhaps the nastiest standoff the country has ever seen between the judiciary and the CBI and the most-respected Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory (Bangalore) in the country.
The Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory, Bangalore, where two priests and a nun of a Kerala-based Church, accused in the Sr Abhaya murder case, were subjected to narco-analyses, has already objected to the observations made by Justice K Hema of the Kerala High Court that the lab had manipulated the reports of the analyses.
Legal experts now say that the court's observation about the lab and against its expert Malini could weaken several crucial cases of the Government presently in the trial stage in various courts in the country. They say that the defendants, who had been subjected to narco-anlayses at the Bangalore lab by Malini, could quote the Kerala judge's observations to prove the lack of credibility of the tests.
The narco-anlalyses supervised by Malini include those of Ajmal Aamir Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist caught for the Mumbai terror attack, and the accused in the Mumbai blasts of 2006 and the explosions at Hyderabad in 2007. Legal experts said that the judges hearing these cases would find themselves in deep problem if the defendants' counsels brought up Justice Hema's comments during trials.
Malini is one of the most trusted and reputed experts on whom different top investigating agencies and courts have depended for scientific examinations of accused in crucial cases. CBI sources said that investigators from its establishment and those from the Central Intelligence Bureau were in the habit of depending on Malini for scientific analyses of suspects just because of her expertise and credibility.
"With Justice Hema expressing doubts about the credibility and truthfulness of Malini and the laboratory, the accused in several cases who have been subjected to examination at the Bangalore lab could appeal to courts against the test results, quoting the Kerala judge's observations. In that case, the judges hearing such cases would be left with no choice but to honour their arguments," said a former lawyer of the CBI in Kerala.
He also said that he simply could not believe that a High Court judge had made such observations against the lab and Malini when the Supreme Court itself used to refer cases to the Bangalore facility just because of its credibility and that of the woman expert.
Mohan, director of the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory expressed dismay at Justice Hema's observation that the reports on the narco-analyses of the Abhaya case accused were tampered with at the lab itself. He told some television channels that he would like to know under what situations Justice Hema had made this observation.
The lab director admitted that the judge's observations would "naturally" have serious impact on the credibility of the laboratory and Malini, which could affect several cases now going on in different courts. He said the judge could have sought an explanation from the lab she had any doubts about the reports but she had not done that.
Mohan pointed out that the issue of the genuineness of the CDs containing reports of the narco-analyses of the two priests and the nun, submitted to the court by the CBI, had come under dispute. But after detailed examinations, Justice V Ramkumar, the judge who heard the Abhaya case earlier, had extended immense praises to the laboratory for its truthfulness.
The CBI in particular is facing a crisis of having to find an official more senior and efficient than its director Ashwini Kumar himself if the agency has to honour the order of Justice Hema. Finding fault with almost every move made by the CBI in the investigation into the 17-year-old Abhaya case, Justice Hema had on January 1 ordered that the probe should be supervised by a more senior and efficient CBI officer.
Sr Abhaya murder case was being probed by a 30-member team headed by DSP Nandakumar Nair, an official who had been commented for his meticulous investigations in the sensational Bihar fodder graft case and the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. CBI's DIG at Chennai unit Kanthaswami and Joint Director Ashok Kumar were the immediate supervisors for the investigations, while director Ashwini Kumar himself had been overseeing the probe periodically.
CBI sources now say that they might not be able to comply with the High Court judge's order, as they cannot find any official senior to and more efficient than the CBI director himself. "The CBI can't just ask the Director to depute a senior person to him - because he himself is monitoring the case - to supervise the case," said a source.