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Jessica probe returns to haunt cops

New Delhi, Feb. 26: Several police officers involved in the Jessica Lal controversy could come under Delhi High Court’s scanner following recent revelations that the police brass suspected the investigation was being sabotaged.

The high court has demanded details of the police probe, raising hopes of a retrial of the case in which all the nine accused ' many of them with powerful connections 'were acquitted for lack of evidence.

Under fire from the public and media on the shoddy investigation ' a charge also brought by the trial court ' police commissioner K.K. Paul last night transferred the investigating officer, Hauz Khas station house officer (SHO) Surender Sharma.

There is a chance that the police may reopen the case, especially as it was Paul who, as joint commissioner (crime) in 2002, had suggested the sabotage theory.

Paul had carried out an in-house inquiry into the murder investigation under orders from the then commissioner, Ajai Raj Sharma. In his confidential report, details of which were revealed yesterday, he had spoken of a “conspiracy” between the accused and certain senior officers. He had suggested that a case of evidence-tampering be registered, but the police didn’t follow up on it.

The police faced heat also from political parties today with the CPI vowing to raise the issue in Parliament and demand a retrial.

Party general secretary A.B. Bardhan said, “Who killed Jessica Lal, who fired the bullet' The verdict has raised questions on (the) effective functioning of our judicial system. Those who have money and connections can get away with even murder.”

The BJP joined the campaign, suggesting that the Centre should have another look at the witness protection programme ' which the party had proposed while in power ' to prevent them from turning hostile.

The senior police officers, serving or retired, who were involved in the investigation in some way or the other include:

Surender Sharma: Then Mehrauli SHO and investigating officer in the case. Has held charge of key police stations, such as Malviya Nagar, Vasant Kunj and Hauz Khas. Went to Kosovo as part of a UN team. Transferred last night to the security wing.

Sudhir Yadav: As deputy commissioner (south district), he monitored the investigation. He was the first to officially raise doubts, writing to his commissioner Ajai Raj Sharma that he suspected the cartridges ' which were later key to the mass acquittals ' had been tampered with to help the accused. He is now additional commissioner (PM security).

Amod Kanth: Then joint commissioner (southern range); the murder happened in his area. In 2001, transferred as joint commissioner (New Delhi range). He heads the NGO, Prayas, and is now director-general of police, Arunachal Pradesh.

K.K. Paul: Gained fame during the Hansie Cronje match-fixing probe. In 2002, his suggestion of a conspiracy to weaken the Jessica case was ignored, but now that he is the commissioner, may reopen the case.

Ajai Raj Sharma: Took over as commissioner in July 1999 just as the investigation was gaining momentum. Following the note from Sudhir Yadav, he asked Paul to probe the murder investigation, but sat on his report. Retired as director-general, BSF. Cronje probe is a feather in his cap.

Y.S. Dadwal: Then joint commissioner (New Delhi range), he had attended the party at Tamarind Court on the night of the murder. Following media reports on this, he was sent to Arunachal Pradesh as inspector-general. Later, then home minister L.K. Advani ordered an inquiry, which cleared him saying he had left the venue before the murder. As special commissioner (administration), he is number two in the Delhi police. This year, he received the President’s Police Medal.

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