The Meghalaya High Court has rejected the plea for CBI investigation into the death of sub-inspector Pearlystone Joshua Marbaniang. The court also ruled that the police officer died after he shot himself.
It may be noted that Marbaniang who was in-charge of Patharkhmah police outpost in Ri-Bhoi district was found shot in the head at his residential quarter on January 24, 2015 after he had stopped 32 trucks laden with illegal coal.
Unhappy with the findings of the SIT investigation into the death of her son, Marbaniang’s mother Dorothy Marbaniang had moved the court seeking CBI investigation into the case. According to her, the procedure under Section 174 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 had not been followed in course of the investigation and that there was an attempt by the investigating agency to suppress the real facts and give the incident a colour of suicide.
In a judgement passed today, the division bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Wanlura Diengdoh said that after going through the material it does not appear that the gun-shot injury that killed the police officer was fired by any person other than the officer himself. The court also said that this is not a fit case for any further or fresh investigation to be ordered.
“At the end of the day, it cannot be lost sight of that a young police officer, who may not have agreed with the manner in which the illegal coal mining activities were being continued, lost his life. There can be nothing but sympathy for the family, including an apology on behalf of the State to the now deceased mother of the officer for the State having failed to protect him adequately. However, upon going through the material it does not appear that the gun-shot injury that killed the official was fired by any person other than the officer himself. On the basis of the material produced and upon it being gleaned for any anomalies, it cannot be said as to who or what may have pushed the officer to such desperation or impelled him to take his life. It is for the trial court to endeavour to unearth the truth in such regard,” the High Court said.
The High Court also said that it does not appear that, particularly after eight years after the incident, any further investigation or a fresh or de novo investigation is required.
“It is recorded that the matter has been gone into in considerable detail by reason of its very nature, despite the original petitioner being no longer available. Counsel originally engaged by the petitioner has been allowed to participate in the proceedings. Upon hearing both the State and counsel formerly engaged by the original petitioner, it does not appear that this is a fit case for any further or fresh investigation to be directed,” the court said.
However, the High Court said that its observations on this matter should not prejudice or influence the trial court in any manner whatsoever “as the object of the present exercise was completely different”.
“It is hoped that the trial resumes immediately and the matter is brought to its logical conclusion in accordance with law as expeditiously as possible and, preferably, within six months from date,” the High Court added.
The court said that the two police personnel who had first discovered Marbaniang after he suffered the gun-shot injury, did not report anything untoward or having spotted anyone else. It also said that a senior official reached the spot immediately as he was staying in the nearby guesthouse.
According to the High Court, photographs were taken contemporaneously of how the body lay before the then still surviving officer was lifted and taken to the CHC.
“There appears to be no material to suggest any foul play or anything remiss about the place of occurrence warranting any suspicion that the fatal injury could have been inflicted on the official by any other person,” the court said.
Further, the High Court said that the doctors of NEIGRIHMS who conducted the second post-mortem examination agreed with the findings of the doctor who had conducted the initial examination at the Nongpoh Civil Hospital, that Marbaniang had been shot on his forehead and the bullet exited the skull through the back of the head.
“At any rate, in this case what is evident from not only the case diary and the charge-sheet but also from the evidence that has come on record at the trial is that it was the official himself who may have pulled the trigger on himself and not any other. As to who drove such person to commit suicide or who would be liable under Section 306 of the Penal Code is the object of the exercise being conducted at the trial,” the court added.
However, the High Court stated that there is no doubt that the owners of the 32 trucks or the coal that such trucks contained wielded considerable authority and influence and a part of the SIT report is quite damning against the Block Development Officer of Jirang Block.
“Doubtless, no action has been taken against such official or others who may have instructed him to act in the manner that he did. While the mendacity of the entire coal business is plain to see, it is quite another to suggest that one or more of the persons involved with the trucks that had been apprehended may have been involved in killing the concerned official,” the court said.