Soujanya case: court slams CBI, police for 'bungling' probe

Soujanya case: court slams CBI, police for 'bungling' probe

Four years into the sensational rape and murder of 17-year-old student Soujanya Gowda at Dharmasthala near Mangaluru, both the police and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seem to have bungled the probe.

A special CBI court was unsparing in its criticism of the central agency’s failure to carry out proper investigation and settle unanswered questions.

 On February 7, the special court judge, B S Rekha, allowed an application filed by Soujanya’s father Chandappa Gowda for further investigation and directed the CBI to examine certain witnesses, who were not included in the charge sheet. Gowda had urged the court to direct the CBI to investigate the role played by three people from Dharmasthala — Uday Jain, Mallik Jain and Ashrith Jain.

During the trial, DNA expert Dr Vinod J Lakkappa had testified that the sample of hair recovered from the crime spot belonged to a person other than the accused, Santosh Rao. He also pointed out that police failed to recover any sample of blood, semen or sperm from the clothes of the accused.

The judge noted, “Keen observation of the circumstances of the case diary and the statements of some of the witnesses recorded by the Belthangady police reveal the role of these persons (Uday Jain, Mallik Jain and Ashrith Jain). None of the witnesses has seen the accused Santosh Rao in the vicinity of the place of occurrence either on the date of the incident or prior to it.”

Interestingly, most of the witnesses who have deposed before the court so far stated that it had rained heavily on the night of October 9, 2012, when Soujanya, a PUC student at SDM College, Ujire, was raped and killed on her way back home.

The body was found the next morning near Belthangady. Interestingly, it was the Jains who had turned Rao over to the Belthangady police. The state government ordered a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probe into the case. In November 2013, the CID endorsed the local police investigation and said the crime was committed by Rao.

Judge Rekha observed, “The clothes of the victim were not stained with mud and the bag was not wet, even the books were not wet. Further, the undergarment of the victim was not secured by the local police from the place of occurrence.” The court further observed that the CBI had not taken serious note of the murder of one of the material witnesses in the case, Ravi Poojari, a local resident.

“The observations made by PW1 (prosecution witness number one — Soujanya’s father) are borne out from the records and even in my opinion also there are serious lapses on the part of the CBI in not conducting proper investigation (sic),” the court noted and directed the CBI to submit a report by April 24, 2017.

HC denies bail to suspect

The High Court of Karnataka has dismissed the bail petition of Santosh Rao, who is accused of raping and murdering Soujanya. Justice John Michael Cunha dismissed the petition as Rao’s lawyer failed to appear for the third consecutive hearing, reports DHNS from Bengaluru.

The CBI, which is investigating the horrific crime, stated that if Rao was let out on bail, he was likely to tamper with evidence in the case. In the statement of objection, the CBI said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Rao had committed the offence.

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