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Monday, October 18, 2021

Court lashes out at cops, CBI on probe into 2017 death of student

Ghaziabad: A special CBI court on Wednesday rejected the central investigating agency’s closure report on the mysterious death of a Manipuri youth in Greater Noida in 2017, ordering a further probe and rebuking UP Police for a shoddy initial inquiry.
In a strongly worded order, CBI special judicial magistrate Shivank Singh noted that several important aspects of the case were overlooked by the CBI before filing the closure report. “The intention to outwit and hoodwink the court with the almost deluded closure report thus becomes latently apparent. Thus, in the considered view of this court, further investigation is required to be done. Accordingly, the protest petition is allowed, closure report filed by the CBI is hereby rejected,” the court stated.
Pravish Chanam (22), a student who was from Imphal, had gone missing during a concert of The Chainsmokers at India Expo Mart in Greater Noida on September 8, 2017. A missing person’s complaint was filed with Knowledge Park Police Station the next day, September 9. Chanam, who was eventually found in Nithari, died the same day. On September 13, police conducted the cremation as an unclaimed body, unable to confirm his identity.
Family members came to know about Chanam’s death after the cremation and accused police and hospital authorities of negligence. They feared Chanam had been targeted by an organ trafficking racket, citing the autopsy report that mentioned several injuries on his body. After a relative of Chanam filed a complaint, an FIR was registered at Sector 20 police station under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) against unknown persons. In July 2019, the CBI took over the investigation.
According to the police’s findings, Chanam had reached Delhi on September 7 and gone to his friend Ashok Thounaojam‘s house in Safdarjung Enclave. Accompanied by other friends, they had reached the concert venue on September 8. Some other friends from Imphal had also met them at the venue. Chanam got separated from his friends during the concert and was found by guards at the venue around 9pm in an unconscious state. He was taken to BR Ambedkar Multispecialty Hospital at Sector 30 in Noida by the medical staff hired by the organisers of the concert.
While Chanam was being admitted to hospital, Ashok and his friends said they looked for him in and around the venue but could not find him. Finally, they left the venue, assuming he might have left with some other friends and would return the next morning. They did not raise an alarm that night.
Chanam disappeared from the hospital on September 9. CCTV footage showed him getting out of the bed around 7.30am, going out and returning with a water bottle 15 minutes later. After that, he was seen roaming around the hospital for some time, but his final exit was not captured by any camera. He was seen for a few seconds around 3pm on footage from a hotel in Nithari, walking briskly in the middle of the road between traffic. Thereafter, he was spotted lying near a pillar, taking deep breaths. A woman offered him water but Chanam had lost consciousness by then. Later, a call was made to the police control room after which he was taken back to Ambedkar hospital by a PCR vehicle. There, he was declared dead.
The court observed that Chanam’s mobile phone was not seized by any investigating officer of UP Police and call detail records (CDRs) of his mobile phone and those of his friends were not collected. The court also observed that the constable on duty who registered the missing person’s complaint failed to transmit the information to the control room.
The CBI in its closure report stated it did not find any conspiracy or criminal intent behind the death.
According to the central agency, the death appeared to be accidental.
Phanjoubam Linthoingambi, a cousin of Chanam, filed a protest petition against the closure report. The court said in its order the investigating agencies had failed to explain why there were multiple injuries on Chanam’s body. It also observed that the CBI had not looked into why injuries mentioned in the post-mortem report were so different from testimonies of the witnesses. The CBI also failed to record the statement of Chanam’s girlfriend. The court asked why no legal action was taken against her for not cooperating in the investigation.
The court said it found it hard to believe that Chanam’s friends waiting at the venue did not come across the medical team hired by the organisers, which was also waiting there for any person who would come looking for Chanam.
The court directed the CBI to file the progress report of the investigation on November 22 and ordered the UP police chief to take strict action against cops who were involved in the investigation before the case was transferred to the CBI. The court noted with deep pain that due to the lapses, the parents and family of the deceased did not get a chance to see the body or perform the last rites.

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