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SC notice on museum officer probe plea

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the CBI and the Bengal government on a habeas corpus petition for a probe by the central agency into the disappearance of the Indian Museum’s “preservation officer” Sunil Kumar Upadhyay.

The family of Upadhyay, who has been missing since July 3, suspects foul play because he had apparently blown the whistle on irregularities at the museum, including looting of precious archaeological and historical items.

The bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Kurien Joseph and Justice R.F. Nariman was initially disinclined to grant the plea and asked the petitioner to approach the high court.

However, senior counsel Dushayant Dave, appearing for petitioner Krishna Mohan Upadhyay, the missing official’s cousin, urged the court to issue notices as the family did not have confidence in the local police. The bench then issued notices to the CBI and the state government and sought their response within four weeks.

The petition was filed through counsel Anirudh Sharma in the form of a habeas corpus, under which a person can seek an order from the apex court or the high court for the production of a person whose whereabouts are unknown.

The petition states that Upadhyay, a resident of the Charu Market area in south Calcutta, went missing after he left home for a walk. The Calcutta police have failed to trace him.

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

“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 worst fears have been proved correct... that Sunil would be in trouble for raising inconvenient questions about misuse of public funds... disappearance of artefacts....”