Narco-analysis: SC order may upset nun murder case

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on May 5, 2010

The Supreme Court’s refusal on Wednesday to approve the scientific examinations like narco-analysis as credible investigative methods is likely to upset the CBI’s continued probe in the sensational Sr Abhaya murder case of Kerala, legal experts say. The apex court’s observations might not affect the agency’s findings so far but it could face difficulties in taking the case to a convincing conclusion, they opine.

“The Indian judiciary has never favoured results of scientific examinations like polygraph, narco-analysis and brain-mapping as conclusive evidences but the formalization of that position could pose new challenges to the investigating agencies,” said a senior lawyer of the Kerala High Court. “To an extent, the CBI is on a weak wicket in the Sr Abhaya case as it is heavily dependent on the results of the narco-analyses on the accused,” he said.

The three accused, all senior functionaries of the Knanaya Catholic Church, had repeatedly objected to the dependence of the CBI on the results of the narco-analyses carried out on them in 2007. Certain cases are still pending in the court questioning the ethics behind the publicizing of the visuals of these analyses in the media. The CBI had claimed that the narco-analyses had yielded the confession of crime from the accused though it had at the very outset said that it would not present the results as evidences.

The counsel for one of the accused said the apex court’s observation brought great relief to the three church personalities. He said the entire procedure of narco-analysis on the accused had now become invalid in the context of the Supreme Court verdict. However, sources in the CBI claimed that the apex court observation would in no way affect the investigation.

The CBI had subjected senior priests Fr Thomas M Kottoor, Fr Jose Puthrukayil and senior nun Sr Seffi, first, second and third accused respectively in the Sr Abhaya murder case, were subjected to narco-analysis at the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Bangalore in November, 2007. The CBI arrested them on November 19, 2008. Visuals of the narco-analyses had got leaked into the visual and print media despite the instructions of the High Court.

Legal experts agreed that the apex court order might not affect its investigations so far but the agency would find the going tough in the probe from now on in view of the apex court verdict prohibiting that in effect prohibited narco-analyses without the consent of the individuals undergoing it. The CBI had planned to subject three witnesses to narco-tests and this had now become practically impossible with the observations by the apex court.

In this context, the CBI would be forced to collect fresh evidences if it has to sustain its case against the accused. “An examination of the CBI’s procedures so far in the Abhaya case shows that the agency had built its entire arguments on the basis of the narco-tests, witness accounts which are yet to be corroborated and the virginity test on Sr Seffi,” said the High Court lawyer.

“Sr Seffi had long back questioned the validity of the virginity test on her. The result of the virginity test need not have any direct bearing on the actual case as the CBI could have done it only to suggest that she had been in some sexual relationships. Now the CBI is losing its mainstay in investigations, the narco-analysis,” he said.

The body of Sr Abhaya (19), a junior nun of the St Pius X Convent in Kottayam, was found in the well of the convent on the morning of March 27, 1992. The CBI had accused that Fr Kottoor, Fr Puthrukayil and Sr Seffi had thrown her in the well the previous night after striking her in the head with a blunt object after Abhaya spotted the trio in a room in the back of the convent in obvious sexual postures at an unearthly hour of the night.

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