Najeeb auto claim scrutiny

Fatima Nafees, 
Najeeb’s mother

New Delhi: The police claim about JNU student Najeeb Ahmed having left campus in an auto-rickshaw the day he disappeared 13 months ago came under pressure in Delhi High Court on Tuesday, with a lawyer suggesting the auto driver's statement came under duress.

According to police, Amreeka Mahato had acknowledged picking Najeeb up from JNU and dropping him off near the Jamia Millia Islamia university - a claim that undermined the charge of kidnapping brought by the student's mother, Fatima Nafees.

Najeeb had vanished a day after a hostel brawl with four ABVP students.

During Tuesday's hearing of Fatima's habeas corpus plea, her lawyer Colin Gonsalves contended the CBI had found that Mahato had made a false statement under police pressure, a student leader who was in court said.

Earlier, the CBI - to whom the high court had transferred the case - had filed a status report in a sealed cover that was shown to Gonsalves on the court's directions. The bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and I.S. Mehta disallowed any discussion of the report in open court; nor would the CBI comment on it.

"So far, the CBI had gone along with the police's auto theory, which has now collapsed following the agency revelation," JNU students' union vice-president Simone Khan, who watched the proceedings, told this newspaper.

Praveer Ranjan, joint commissioner of police, said: "The auto-wallah's statement was recorded in front of a magistrate. We'll comment on the CBI's observations only after going through the report."

Gonsalves had earlier argued that the recorded details of calls Mahato had received near JNU and later near Safdarjung Hospital that day suggested too narrow a time window for him to have made a detour through Jamia in between.

He had alleged that Najeeb had been abducted and that the perpetrators were being protected under pressure from the ruling BJP.

The four ABVP members accused of involvement in the hostel brawl have challenged a CBI plea to subject them to a lie-detector test.


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