In a significant development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday informed the Delhi High Court that the disappearance of JNU student Najeeb Ahmed was only a “missing” person case as of now as the agency has “not found any evidence” to show that any crime was committed.
The CBI also told the bench, comprising justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta, that it does not have “an iota of evidence” to arrest or take any coercive action against the nine students who are suspects in the case of disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed.
The agency further said that after analysing the data retrieved by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Chandigarh from six of the nine mobile phones of the suspect students, it has “not been able to find anything remotely connected to the allegations against them (the suspect students)”.
“We are (at this stage) not even sure if a crime has been committed,” the lawyer for the CBI told the court.
The agency said three of the phones could not be examined by its CFSL in Chandigarh as two were in damaged condition and the third had a ‘pattern lock’ which could not be unlocked.
The CBI told the court that the three phones would be sent to its CFSL in Hyderabad where hopefully they can be examined.
Taking note of the submission, the bench asked the CBI to send the phones expeditiously to the lab and directed the CFSL to examine the phones and give a report to the agency within one month of receiving the phones.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Ahmed’s mother Fatima Nafees, said that information in the CBI status reports has to be provided or communicated to her and she cannot be excluded from it.
He also sought directions to the CBI to pay Nafees Rs 10,000 for every hearing so that she can travel back and forth from her home in Uttar Pradesh to Delhi.
Apart from that he also sought that the probe be monitored by the court or a retired high court judge who will minutely examine every detail of the investigation.
He also asked the court to peruse the statements of the suspects recorded by the CBI to ascertain whether the agency questioned them about their movements after Ahmed disappeared on October 15, 2016 and compared their answers against the mobile phone location data.
In response to the argument by Gonsalves, the CBI said the statements of the suspects will be placed before the court on the next date of hearing on July 12.
The agency also said that it has done much more than questioning the suspect students about their movements and comparing it to their mobile phone location data.
It said it has questioned 28 students and 25 security guards of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in connection with the disappearance of Ahmed, a student of M Sc Biotechnology.
Apart from that, the agency said it has sought help of Interpol to issue a yellow notice, a global alert, for the missing student and has also announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for any clue about him.
The bench expressed its satisfaction with the probe, saying the agency’s status reports were of “quality standards” as well as “distinct and different every time” and were “not a mechanical exercise”.
The court also said that the agency appeared to be making efforts to trace the missing student and it should not be pressured at this stage of the investigation.
It, however, said that if it gets “one whiff” that the probe was being carried out in a casual manner, it will pull up the agency.
The bench had earlier chided the CFSL in Chandigarh for its “laxity” in dealing with the examination of the nine mobile phones.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Nafees seeking directions to the police to trace her son who went missing in October 2016.
Ahmed had gone missing from the Mahi-Mandvi hostel of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on October 15, 2016 following a scuffle with some other students, allegedly affiliated to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the previous night.
The high court had on May 16 last year handed over to the CBI the investigation into the disappearance of Ahmed. His mother had moved the high court on November 25, 2017, seeking directions to the police to trace her son.
However, as the Delhi Police remained clueless about his whereabouts even seven months after he went missing, the probe was handed over to the CBI on May 16 last year.
(With PTI inputs)