Actor Jiah Khan’s mother Rabia Khan is misusing the judicial machinery to get an order in line with her claim that her daughter’s death was a case of murder and not suicide, the Bombay high court held while rejecting her plea seeking a fresh probe in the case.
Jiah Khan, 25, who debuted opposite Amitabh Bachchan in the 2007 film, ‘Nishabd’, was found hanging in her Mumbai apartment by her mother in June 2013. Rabia Khan, who has been maintaining that Jiah was murdered, claimed that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had not probed her daughter’s death properly. A division bench of justices A S Gadkari and Milind Jadhav heard her petition and reserved its judgement on September 12. The order was made available on Tuesday.
The high court was also intending to impose cost on Rabia Khan for her repeated attempts for the same cause but refrained from doing so after her lawyer pleaded against it.
The bench said the petition seemed to be an attempt by Khan to protract the trial which had already commenced. The judgement further said that the demand by the petitioner to direct CBI to reinvestigate the case by forming a special investigation team (SIT) or transferring investigation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the US based on the suggestions of a law firm from UK was unreasonable.
“Reading of SCARMAN’s report reveals that even before the trial is over, the authors of the report are sitting in judgment over the investigation and delivering a verdict at the behest of Petitioner. At places in the report, there are adverse comments on the judgment and orders delivered by this Court which are not appreciated and deprecated by us. Assuming whilst denying, what the report seeks to do or achieve is the role of the Trial Court which can be accomplished only after the trial is completed. The entire basis of the report is the belief of Jiah Khan’s family that her death continues to be erroneously categorized as suicide,” noted the bench in its order.
The bench noted that CBI had reinvestigated the case, gone to lengths to ascertain whether the allegations made by the mother were valid and placed a report confirming that the death of Jiah Khan was suicide and not homicide. The court said the repeated applications by the petitioner in various courts was only intended to protract the trial. This, the bench noted, was only increasing the hardships for the petitioner as well as the accused.
The bench also scoffed at the request of the petitioner seeking transfer of the investigation to FBI and said that it failed to understand how it could issue a direction to an agency to investigate the issue which was beyond its jurisdiction. “The entire approach of the Petitioner appears to procure an Order from this Court, without facing trial, that the death of victim was homicidal and not suicidal. This kind of approach appears to circumvent the due process of law. That apart, once the trial has commenced, we do not understand as to how the Petitioner can maintain such objections especially in the light of the Orders passed by this Court and this Court having found that the investigation done by Respondent No.2 – CBI has been appropriate,” noted the court.
Following the filing of a chargesheet in 2013 by the Mumbai police, Rabia Khan approached the court and sought reinvestigation of the case by a central agency. The court directed CBI to conduct an investigation which filed a supplementary chargesheet in 2014 wherein it arrived at the conclusion that it was suicide and not homicide and actor Sooraj Pancholi was guilty of abetment of suicide.
Not satisfied by the same, Khan approached the high court which in 2017 held that the investigation by CBI was thorough and hence could not be faulted. Khan then approached the Supreme Court through a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in 2019 but the SC had rejected it in light of the high court order. Thereafter, during the trial, Khan procured a report by a law firm in UK which stated that there were many lacunae in the investigation as many aspects like getting critical evidence from Jiah Khan’s mobile phone was not done. The same was placed before the high court.
On perusal of the report the bench noted in its judgement, “We are aghast and shocked to read the said report and most importantly what is stated therein. In the first place, it is not understood as to whether the authors of the report understand the difference between investigation and trial. Prima facie, it appears that the authors of the report are of the belief that the trial in the case has already been completed. Further we are also lost to understand that SCARMANS have given their report on the evidence relating to the victim’s death when investigation is over and now that the trial has already commenced. We are afraid to state that this report attempts to deliver a verdict even before the trial is over in the present case.”
The court held that during the trial, if the trial court came up against evidence which required further investigation it could direct the investigators to do so but the petitioner was trying to pre-empt it.
“In view of the above, we strongly deprecate the repeated filing of proceedings by the Petitioner for the same cause of action. Hence, we are inclined to award exemplary costs against the Petitioner for filing the present Petition which is nothing but a replication of the earlier proceedings filed (repeatedly) by the Petitioner, despite this Court giving a decisive ruling on the same and the Supreme Court upholding the same. The Orders passed by Trial Court, this Court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court speak for themselves,” said the bench in its order.
However, in view of Rabia Khan’s lawyer, advocate Shekhar Jagtap’s pleading against imposition of cost, the high court refrained from it and dismissed the petition.