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Telling stains in murder papers

Manirul Islam

Aug. 17: Two telling entries in a murder chargesheet that does not list Trinamul MLA Manirul Islam among the accused have drawn attention to the way police have investigated the death of three brothers in Birbhum.

One, the “PO” or place of occurrence has been identified as “the courtyard of the house of Manirul Islam”.

Two, the chargesheet says “it is also gathered on secret information that… Manirul was not physically present at the spot during the commission of the offence”.

Having made such an assertion, the chargesheet does not mention where Manirul was on the night of June 3, 2010, when brothers Koton Sheikh, Dhanu Sheikh and Turuk Sheikh were murdered over an alleged dispute over sand mining and switching political loyalties. In 2009, Manirul had moved to Trinamul from the Forward Bloc. He became an MLA in 2011.

The chargesheet was filed by the police in a Bolpur court on June 16, over four years after the murders took place. It was reported in June that Manirul was not among the 42 mentioned as accused in the chargesheet.

A copy of the chargesheet accessed now by The Telegraph has thrown up the two entries that raise several questions about the investigation.

The questions assume added significance because the MLA, who was also heard saying he trampled three persons to death, had been seen sharing public platforms with the chief minister since the case became one of the most talked-about in the state. Hearing is also going on in Calcutta High Court on whether the murder case should be handed over to the CBI.

One of the most important questions that the chargesheet throws up is whether the owner of a house — that too a powerful person who later became an MLA — can be exempt on the basis of a mere claim that he was not present when three persons were murdered in the courtyard.

The chargesheet says: “Bloodstain mixed with soil collected in a white paper from PO from the courtyard of the house of Manirul….”

The police were so sure that the murders took place there that they did not try to even match the blood samples of the victims and those found from the soil.

“Those arrested had admitted that the brothers were murdered in Manirul’s courtyard. As there was no dispute in this regard, the blood samples were not matched with that of the victims,” said a police officer in Labhpur, where the scene of crime falls.

Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, a criminal lawyer practising at Calcutta High Court, said if three persons were murdered in someone’s courtyard and eyewitnesses accused the house owner, the police should conduct a probe into his complicity.

“If the owner of the house says he was not present at home, the police should ask him where he was when the crime was committed. If the owner says he was somewhere else, the police should visit the place and collect evidence that can corroborate the claim,” Chatterjee said.

The chargesheet does not go into the whereabouts of Manirul on the night of June 3, 2010.

Asked tonight where he was on that night, Manirul said: “No comments. I will not say anything in this regard.”

Several police officers wondered whether the police should have concluded that Manirul was not present — a statement that effectively seeks to give him a clean chit — on the basis of “secret information”.

“Secret sources are not entertained by courts. The police should have come up with specific evidence that could have proved Manirul was not present at the spot,” a senior officer said.

A CID official who has handled homicide cases said the police might have kept an escape route open. “If a lawyer appointed by the victims’ family establishes Manirul’s presence in his house at that time, the police can say their secret information was wrong,” the official added.

The investigating officer says in the chargesheet: “I intend to give importance or rely on the statements made before the magistrate by the witnesses and the evidences on record and material evidences so far collected.”

In a statement to the police, Sanwar Sheikh and Jamal Sheikh, two brothers who survived the attack, and other family members had blamed Manirul. Later, in front of a magistrate, they had said Manirul was not present at the spot.

However, Sanwar said today: “My daughter and a nephew were abducted by Manirul’s men. They had told us to change our statement before the magistrate. They threatened to murder the children if we did not change our statements. We had no option.”

Sanwar said his daughter and nephew were released after the family deposed before the magistrate. The abduction allegation had been reported earlier this year but no formal complaint was made to the police for obvious reasons.

The police, which went out of their way to rely on “secret” information to give a clean chit to Manirul, did not think it fit to verify the authenticity of the abduction allegation on their own.

Asked about the chargesheet, Birbhum SP Alok Rajoria said: “We have mentioned everything that we found during the investigation. Now the matter is with the court and I will not comment.”


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