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Court directs DGP to look into case of missing woman

By Mohamed Imranullah S.

MADURAI, JAN. 5. Criticising the Karur district police for its inability to trace a schoolteacher who has been missing for three months, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today directed the Director-General of Police (Intelligence) to appoint a senior officer to investigate the involvement of a ruling party MLA, Papa Sundaram.

Hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by the husband of a 34-year-old high school teacher at Kulithalai, a Division Bench comprising Justice P.D. Dinakaran and Justice S. Ashok Kumar directed A.X. Alexander to supervise the investigation.

The Bench was "dissatisfied" with the enquiry conducted by the district police, though there were enough material in the case diary with regard to the involvement of the MLA. The DGP is to file his report on January 18.

According to the petitioner, his wife, Meenatchi, left for work on October 19, 2004, and did not return home after school. He alleged that the Kulithalai police did not take steps though a case was registered on October 20, 2004.

During arguments, the Bench perused the case diary and found materials, including several phone calls and newspaper reports, pointing to the involvement of the MLA. When questioned by the Bench as to whether the MLA was interrogated in the case, the Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) replied in the negative.

"We don't think your police will do a fair investigation. There is something behind this. A 34-year-old woman, that too a school teacher, is missing for three months and you've not taken any effective steps till date."

The Bench also came down heavily on the police for "tampering" with the dates in the case diary and questioned the APP as to how the police recorded the statement of witnesses on October 19 when the case itself came to be registered on October 20, 2004. "Every other date in the report has been tampered with and antedated. Some false records are produced here to satisfy the court as we had called for the case diary."

Perusing a special report filed by a head constable stating that his visit to Madurai, Tiruchi and Virudhunagar districts on November 20 in search of the woman was futile, the Bench asked: "He has covered three districts in a single day. Did he fly in a helicopter?"

When the APP justified the act of the police officers, the Bench criticised him too and directed him "to perform" his duty as a law officer. "When there are serious allegations against MLAs and Ministers, don't merely be a mouthpiece of the investigating officers." Reposing faith in the State police, it said, "there are some black sheep at the grass roots level and we know how to weed them out."

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