The autorickshaw driver who the Delhi police claimed had dropped off Najeeb Ahmed at the Jamia Milia Islamia has retracted his statements. The Central Bureau of Investigation which is probing the mysterious disappearance of the JNU said that the driver had made the statement before the Delhi police under duress.
The status report, giving details of the steps the CBI has taken in the matter, was submitted in a sealed cover before a bench of Justices S Muralidhar and IS Mehta.
According to CBI sources, when agency sleuths grilled the auto-rickshaw driver he told them that he was forced to give a statement that he had picked 27-year-old Najeeb Ahmed, a student of M.Sc in Biotechnology, from the JNU campus and left him at Jamia Millia Islamia on October 15 last year.
The driver's statement was recorded under duress by the Delhi Police, the CBI submitted to the high court, the agency sources said.
Najeeb went missing on October 15 following an on-campus scuffle allegedly with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members the night before in Mahi-Mandavi Hostel of JNU.
The probe agency, which earlier received flak from the court for its "complete lack of interest" in the matter, told the bench that it was awaiting forensic results of the mobile phones of nine JNU students that were seized in connection with its probe.
Asked about the status report, CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said he would not comment on the report as it was submitted in a "sealed cover" and the matter was sub-judice.
The high court bench said, "CBI has handed over a status report. It reflects further steps taken in the matter. The court does not think it appropriate to discuss the details of the investigation given in the status report in the open court."
The agency, which refused to give a copy of the report to the counsel for Najeeb Ahmed's mother citing the reasons of leakage of contents in the media, showed the details to the complainant's advocate for his perusal inside the court.
During the hearing, CBI's counsel Nikhil Goel said their investigation was continuing and they have seized the mobile phones of nine students suspected of being behind Najeeb's disappearance and sent them to the forensic science laboratory (FSL) which is yet to give its report.
Their call detail records were also being analysed, he said, adding that since the case was of a sensitive nature and if the details come out in the media, it would be difficult for officials to extract information.
When the CBI's counsel urged the court to conduct in-chamber proceedings in the matter, the bench said it would consider it on the next date of hearing on December 21. The court considered it appropriate to wait for the FSL results.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Najeeb's mother, asked why the CBI was not taking anyone into custody to extract information and alleged that it was a political abduction by ABVP students due to which the probe agencies were acting slow.
To this, the bench said it was not supposed to supervise the probe at this stage but only to ensure that the probe was not hampered or influenced in any manner.
"We cannot put unnecessary pressure on the probe agency. We completely understand the anxiety and tension of the parents," the bench said.
The court was also informed that the CBI plea seeking the consent of the suspect students for a polygraph test was listed for hearing tomorrow before a trial court here.
The CBI had earlier faced flak from the high court for its "complete lack of interest" and not showing any result in its probe into the disappearance of Najeeb, five months after being handed over the investigation.
Over a month after Najeeb went missing, his mother had moved the High Court on November 25, 2016, seeking directions to the police to trace her son.
The high court had immediately directed the Delhi Police to "explore all angles" and "cut across political barriers" to trace the young man, saying no one could just vanish from the heart of the national capital.
However, as the police remained clueless about Najeeb's whereabouts even after seven months since he went missing, the probe was handed over to CBI on May 16, 2017.
In August, when CBI failed to file a fresh progress report in the case, the high court had rebuked it, saying the probe was not transferred to the agency "for fun".
On September 6, the court again directed the CBI to take steps to trace Najeeb.