A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and P D Kode ordered transfer of the probe from Special Investigating Team (SIT) of Mumbai police to CBI on a petition filed by actress' mother Rabia Khan, who has alleged her daughter was murdered and had not committed suicide as claimed by the city police.
"The case is handed over to CBI for further investigation to assess whether Jiah Khan committed suicide or was murdered," the judges said. The judges said they were not expressing any opinion about the merits of investigation done by Mumbai police.
The state government and city police were directed to extend necessary cooperation and logistical support to the Central agency in conducting the probe. Explaining the reasons for transferring the case to CBI, the bench said forensic opinion privately obtained by Rabia were at variance with those of Mumbai police, suggesting there was a "lacuna" in the investigation.
Besides, the SIT constituted by the Mumbai police on the court's directive had several officers who were part of an earlier team of the city police which had conducted the probe and concluded it was a case of suicide.
Jiah, the 25-year-old British-American actress, was found hanging from a ceiling fan at her home in Juhu on June 3 last year. Jiah's relationship with newbie actor Suraj Pancholi, son of actors couple Aditya pancholi and Zareena Wahab, was said to be under strain and it was suspected that it drove her to end her life.
However, her mother Rabia moved the High Court seeking a CBI probe suspecting her daughter was murdered. Police have already charge-sheeted Suraj for abetment Jiah's suicide.
While handing over the case to CBI, the court pulled it up for showing reluctance to take up the investigation citing shortage of officers. Before the court passed its order, CBI counsel Vedika Gonsalves said the agency was already burdened with a large number cases and faced shortage of officers.
"It is not expected of CBI to come out with such an excuse saying they do not have enough officers to conduct a probe. In a country of one billion people an investigative agency like CBI should not take such a stance otherwise where will the citizens go to seek justice," Justice Kanade said.