When should one approach the court for justice? Should they wait for the police to complete its investigation or should they seek the legal route immediately? What happens if they place their trust in the investigation only to soon realise that justice may not prevail?
Victor Das faces this conundrum, a year after his father’s death.
Victor and his family’s life changed completely on August 27, 2020, when his father, Kumud Chandra Das, an employee with the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), was found murdered near the Kamakhya Junction.
Kumud Chandra Das’s death came a year after six officials of the NF Railways, including Senior PRO Dilip Chandra Bora, Office Superintendent Haradhan Dey, Senior Cashier Prabir Das Purkayastha, Office Superintendent Babu Lal Medhi, Chief Publicity Inspector MMY Alam, and Accounts Assistant Hitesh Deka were registered under sections 120-B, 409, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Their arrests were part of an investigation into a Rs 158 crore scam.
The raid at their homes unearthed evidence about the case, and Kumud Chandra Das, who worked as a Cheque writer, had records of account numbers and data of whom the cheques were being sent to. His son believes he held sufficient evidence against the suspects of the Rs 158 crore NF Railway scam.
What followed was a year-long ordeal that ended with Kumud Chandra’s death.
“After the CBI raids, Hitesh Deka constantly threatened my father to wipe off all data relating to the case. He was also asked to destroy any documents or files that he held with him. Many times, he visited our home and spoke with my father at the entrance, but he never entered our home,” said Victor.
After this, Victor alleged that Deka, along with the railway vigilance committee, filed a fraud case against his father. However, they could not prove anything as his father was found innocent. Victor’s father refused to give away any evidence he was holding on to, fearing such a step would jeopardise his career.
In 2020, after the first COVID-19-induced lockdown restrictions began to ease, offices re-opened with 50% capacity on July 15. Kumud Das returned to the workplace to find his desk drawer broken into and many files missing. He immediately reported this to his senior officer Sanjay Sharma, who assisted him.
“When they couldn’t do anything to him officially, as my father never got involved in illegal activities, they killed him,” says a sobbing Victor, calling it a planned, cold-blooded murder.
Suspicious ‘suicide’, callous investigation part of the plan?
Victor sees red flags in everything that has happened since his father was murdered, and for good reason. Take the murder itself, which was passed off as a ‘suicide’ by the Guwahati Railway Police Station (GRPS) investigation team.
Victor says his father’s body was found behind the railway police station with one cut at the back of his head. He was found barefoot, without any belongings, when the Railway trackman was off duty. There was also no CCTV footage of the incident and there were no reports of any train accidents from any of the stations nearby on that day. Then where does the suicide angle come from? asks Victor.
“When I spoke to the rag pickers near the site where his body was found, they said that my father was still alive when the police found him,” says Victor. “There was a clear mark behind his head showing that he was attacked with a rod. This was proved by doctors in the GMCH in the post mortem report. The doctors there confirmed that it was a murder and not an accident,” added Victor.
“The report says there’s an injury to the head. This needs to be investigated further by a forensic doctor. Forensic doctors are available with only a few Government hospitals in India. Private hospitals will not have this specialisation,” a private medical practitioner told EastMojo on the condition of anonymity when shown the post-mortem report.
Despite repeated attempts, EastMojo could not get the GMCH Superintendent Abhijit Sarmah to comment on the case.
Following the murder, Victor filed a case under Section 302 of the IPC in the same police station where his father’s murder was registered (Guwahati Railway Police Station) against Hitesh Deka, Chittaranjan Deka, Subhon Chakraborty, Bidyut Barman, Ujjwal Sarkar, Prabir Das Purakayastha, and other suspects. He said the police did not do a proper investigation, repeatedly mentioning carelessness on part of Officer Mahesh Baishya who tried to talk them out of pursuing the case.
Bidyut Barman called Kumud Das about five times before he left the house on August 27, the day he was murdered. Barman, Victor said, had been newly transferred to his father’s office from the Silchar division as a punishment. He was allegedly pushed by Hitesh Deka to repeatedly call Kumud Das, as he was new and would not be a suspect, alleges Victor. Ujjwal Sarkar took a transfer from Guwahati soon after the case was filed.
To find out how the case was handled by the NFR, EastMojo contacted Nilangan Deb, the current spokesperson for Railways.
“The case has been taken over by the state police and it is for them to investigate. We cannot comment on any such unnatural death. Moreover, the matter is sub judice, and all sub judice matters are dealt with by the state,” the official told EastMojo.
When asked about the 2019 Rs 158 crore NFR scam and if there was any connection between the two cases, Deb refused to comment and instead told EastMojo to contact the CBI, since they were looking into the case.
As mentioned earlier in the story, Victor did not approach the court immediately and instead put all his hope into the police investigation. However, he soon realised that the police were not taking the case seriously.
“The investigating officer Mahesh Baishya was deliberately involved in the conspiracy. The body was recovered behind the GRPS. There was neither a suicide note nor any belongings,” said Victor.
Within three months of filing the FIR, Mahesh Baishya, the investigation officer, took a transfer from the Maligaon Outpost. For the next nine months, the case remained in cold storage.
Victor could not register the case under Assam Police because the body was recovered on railway tracks. “It was deliberately placed there by the murderers so that the case is handled by Baishya, who was partner in the conspiracy,” he said, alleging that Baishya took a sum of around Rs 85 lakh from the alleged perpetrators of the crime.
Not all of Victor’s claims can be confirmed or said to be true, of course, but one cannot deny that the way the case has been handled leaves a lot to be desired.
“Every day we go to the office, we are called the next Monday,” he says. “We have not yet approached the courts, we do not have anyone to give us any legal guidance, and that would also drain out the remaining money that we have,” says Victor, who resides in the same railway quarter that was assigned to his father.
“Sister, leave all this. Let bygones be bygones,” the officer (Mahesh Baishya) told them on many occasions when he visited the family. “Is this the way you talk to a family who has lost a guardian, a father?” asked Victor, who has been running from pillar to post for the investigation to move further.
When asked about the legal recourse in the case, a Gauhati High Court advocate told EastMojo that if the complainant is not happy with how the case has been investigated, or if one has any grievance concerning the proceedings of the case, they can apply with the Chief Justice Magistrate Court.
“The complainant must first find out the status of the case and ask the police if they have filed any reports. Usually, delay in investigation or action is caused by the absence of sufficient evidence,” said another advocate.
Having lost hope, Victor took to Twitter to raise his complaints, tagging senior police officials and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. And interestingly, his tweets proved to be successful too, at least partly: his tweet caught Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s attention and the case was handed over to GP Singh, Special DGP of Assam Police, who transferred the case to Assam CID in August.
“The case is being investigated by the CID now. At the request of the family, the case was transferred to CID. You may please reach out to CID,” GP Singh, Special DGP, Assam Police, told EastMojo.
We reached out to the CID officer-in-charge of the case to know if they had come across any breakthrough.
“It has been 20-25 days since the case was handed over to us. We are talking to the eyewitnesses in the case, checking mobile phone records and collecting all documentary evidence,” CID Inspector Jogendra Barman, who is currently investigating the case, told EastMojo.
When asked about what conclusion had been derived by the investigation done by GPRS, he said that Mahesh Baishya suspected it to be a case of suicide.
By getting the Chief Minister’s attention, Victor has scored a minor victory, but only time will tell if he will ever win the battle for justice in his father’s murder.
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