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‘Whistleblower’ probe

The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a petition for a CBI inquiry into the disappearance of Indian Museum “preservation officer” Sunil Kumar Upadhyay, missing since July 3 after he had revealed theft of artefacts in the Calcutta institution.

His family suspect foul play in his mysterious disappearance because he had apparently blown the whistle on irregularities in the museum, including looting of precious archaeological and historical items.

Upadhyay’s cousin Krishna Mohan had filed a habeas corpus petition, seeking intervention of the apex court for production of “the person whose whereabouts are not known”.

A bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha asked counsel Anriudh Sharma to get the matter listed with the registry to ensure that it comes up before the appropriate bench for hearing. But he declined to take up the matter for hearing on an urgent basis, as requested by the counsel.

The petition says Upadhyay, a resident of the Charu Market police station area, has been missing since he left home for a walk along the Dhakuria lake on July 3 and Calcutta police have failed to trace him.

The family was worried over his wellbeing because of the questions he had raised regarding irregularities at Indian Museum.

“It is an open secret now in public discourse that he had raised his voice against corruption and irregularities prevailing in Indian Museum for which he has paid a price,” the petition says.

“It now transpires that a complex investigation by an expert investigating agency would be required, having seamless jurisdiction and will take on the local mafia dealing in artefacts.

“The petitioner’s family and the petitioner’s worst fears have been proved correct unfortunately by media reports which are in public domain, that Sunil would be in trouble for raising inconvenient questions about misuse of public funds, mismanagement and disappearance of artefacts or presence of fake ones.”

It says a month has passed since a Class One officer of the Union government went missing but Calcutta police still have no clues on his whereabouts. The petitioner says the central government has not done enough to trace an honest officer.

He requested the apex court to order a CBI probe since time was running out and the police haven’t made any headway in the case.

Upadhyay’s family had lodged a missing diary with Charu Market police station.

“He was not carrying his cell phone when he went out for a walk. There were no transactions on his ATM card even weeks after his disappearance. He did not leave behind any electronic evidence,” said an investigator.

Senior officers did not rule out foul play either, corroborating the family’s fear. Upadhyay’s relatives had alleged that he was privy to certain information on irregularities in his office and these might have a role in his mysterious disappearance.

Additional reporting by our Calcutta bureau