The police could have no forensic or physical evidence, they have the confession of the driver, Rahul Mukherjea’s testimony and call data records as corroborating evidence.

Could Indrani Mukherjea get away with the alleged murder Is there enough evidenceImage: cablequest/9xmedia
Voices Friday, August 28, 2015 - 17:00

With allegations and counter-allegations flying thick and fast, and a lot of theories being churned out by journalists based on facts, ‘source’ based reporting or simply pure speculation, the only question which matters to the police in the sensational Sheena Bora murder case is, can Indrani Mukherjea be convicted in a court of law? Is there enough evidence against her? Could she get away with the alleged murder, if indeed she had a role in it?

Let’s look at the evidence and reported testimonies so far (not speculation).

First – the forensics.

The police department seems to have lost the forensic evidence which was discovered in the Raigad forests and kept in the Kalina crime lab, and it is possible that it might never be recovered. However, sources suggest that another smaller sample which was kept in the JJ Hospital lab is still available. It has reportedly been sent to the police, but it is believed these samples might not provide conclusive evidence.

What this essentially means is that there is a possibility that there could be no conclusive forensic evidence to prove it was Sheena body which was disposed off three years ago. . The police is said to be conducting a fresh search in the area hoping to recover new evidence – which is a stretch. Unless the forensic evidence kept in JJ lab is sufficient, or the police discover something new at the spot where the body was disposed, there is no physical evidence.

Second - the ‘confession’ of the driver, Shyam Rai.

As per media reports, Shyam Rai has spilled the beans on the whole sequence of events from Sheena entering Indrani’s car at Bandra to the eventual disposal of her body in Raigad. It is also being reported that the driver could turn a police approver and offer evidence against Indrani and her former husband Sanjeev Khanna, who is alleged to have had a role in the murder.

To cut the long story short, the driver has reportedly said that the day before Sheena was murdered, Indrani and he visited the Raigad forests for a recce. On the day of the murder, Sheena was taken to Taj Land’s End in Bandra, where he stood guard to the vehicle as Indrani and Sanjeev strangulated Sheena. The next day, Shyam drove Indrani and Sheena’s dead boy to the Raigad forests where they disfigured her face and burnt the body with petrol.

Third – Rahul Mukherjea’s testimony.

Rahul, who is Peter’s son and Sheena’s former boyfriend, said that he dropped Sheena off in Bandra where he saw her get into the car with Indrani. According to media reports, Rahul has said that Sheena had initially hesitated to get into the car when she saw Sanjeev Khanna in the car, but Indrani had forced her to get into the car. This ‘last seen theory’ could prove to be very important in the case.

Fourth – call data records and location details from tower signals.

This could be used by the police to trace the exact movement of Indrani, the driver and Sanjeev on the days the crime was planned and executed. Indrani’s behaviour after the alleged murder can also be traced through call records.

So here is a broad picture – the police could have no forensic or physical evidence, they have the confession of the driver, Rahul Mukherjea’s testimony and call data records as corroborating evidence. Police sources say that irrespective of the forensic evidence, the effort is to build a strong case on the basis of circumstantial evidence and post- murder behaviour of all the accused in the case.

So, is this evidence good enough to convict Indrani Mukherjea?

There is no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, the best we can do is this: it might be, but it’s a close call. Don’t be surprised if she gets away.

The News Minute spoke to senior criminal lawyers and former cops and sought their opinion on whether the evidence is enough for conviction.

“If there is no physical evidence, then this could be a difficult case to prove,” says Abudukumar Rajarathnam, a senior lawyer at the Madras High Court.

In such a high profile case, it could be difficult to prove the guilt of the accused just with circumstantial evidence, he says. It would be important to prove that the body found in Raigad was indeed that of Sheena’s, which cannot happen if there was no physical evidence.

As for the confession of the driver, Abudukumar says that we must also remember that he is an accused too. The defense could call into doubt his version, especially if it is not corroborated by other evidence. However, the call data records could corroborate the testimony offered by the driver. The Mumbai police is thus said to be working hard to corroborate the driver’s testimony through call records.

M Shahjahan, a former public prosecutor based in Chennai, says that the ‘last seen theory’, which is the proof that the victim was last seen with the accused, is an extremely crucial piece of evidence in a criminal case. And Rahul Mukherjea’s testimony could play an important role there, since he has reportedly said that he saw Sheena get into the car with Indrani.

“Only approver’s version will not stand in court, it has to be corroborated with other evidence,” he says, agreeing with Abudukumar.

However, both the lawyers point out that establishing the motive of the murder will be very crucial in a case which has little or no physical evidence. If the police is able to present a case of the exact motive, prove that Indrani was lying, then it will strengthen the case and even the lack of physical evidence could be overlooked.

Former police officer R Ramrajan, a retired IGP, says that circumstantial evidence is enough and physical evidence is not required. “We have proven cases in which there is only circumstantial evidence of the crime. But mens rea is important, we need to pinpoint and prove the exact motive,” he says.

But with police investigations still underway, the nature of evidence in the case could change drastically in the coming days.

 

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