Police can conduct further investigation in Kodanad heist-cum-murder, rules HC

Judge says the crime had been followed by “a series of suspicious deaths”

The Madras High Court on Friday ruled that the Shulurmattam police in Nilgiris district can go ahead and conduct further investigation into the 2017 Kodanad Estate heist-cum-murder case.

Justice M. Nirmal Kumar dismissed a petition filed by prosecution witness ‘Anubhav’ Ravi alias N. Ravi of AIADMK’s Amma Makkal Peravai in Coimbatore against conduct of further investigation.

The judge held that the police was fully empowered to conduct further investigation under Section 173(8) of Code of Criminal Procedure even after filing of charge sheet and commencement of trial.

He pointed out that the legal provision begins with a non obstante clause that nothing in that provision would preclude the investigating agency from conducting further investigation when it obtains fresh evidence.

Therefore, when the investigating officer comes across new evidence in a case, even after the filing of a charge sheet, he/she could go ahead and conduct further investigation.

Such power to conduct further investigation at any stage of a criminal case cannot be “doubted, objected or found fault with,” the judge held.

Quoting from a Supreme Court ruling, the judge said though further investigation might delay the trial, the ultimate object was to arrive at truth.

“A fair trial is imperative in dispensation of justice and there is a difference between right to speedy trial and fair trial. A duty is cast upon the court to see that there is proper, fair, impartial and an effective investigation,” the judge wrote.

He went on to state that filing of charge sheet or pendency of trial could by no means be a prohibition to conduct further investigation. The object of criminal trial was to discover the truth and plausible evidence must be brought on record whatever stage the case may be in.

“In this case, the murder had taken place in Kodanad Estate and it has been followed by a series of suspicious deaths. Whatever materials are collected, it is ultimately for the court concerned to decide the acceptability or otherwise of the same. It is always better to have a fair and impartial trial to arrive at an impartial and just decision,” Justice Kumar wrote.

He also pointed out that the present petitioner was neither a de facto complainant nor a victim or an accused. He was only a witness in this case and he could not have any say in the manner of investigation or trial of the case.

No prejudice would be caused to the petitioner due to the decision taken by the police to conduct further investigation, the judge added.

He agreed with Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram that the law does not mandate obtaining permission of the trial court before conducting further investigation.

It was sufficient if the police intimates the court about its decision to conduct further investigation. In the Kodanad case, such information had been provided and the court had also recorded it, the judge concluded.

The Kodanad Estate was owned jointly by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her close aide V.K. Sasikala. The heist in the estate had taken place when Edappadi K. Palaniswami was the Chief Minister.

In the course of the burglary, the accused had hacked watchman Om Bahadur to death. Another watchman had sustained grievous injuries.

Days later, the prime accused C. Kanagaraj, former driver of Jayalalithaa, died in a road accident. Another accused K.V. Sayan escaped narrowly from a similar road accident. A CCTV operator at the Estate too died by suicide adding to the mystery.

The police had decided to conduct further investigation in the case after DMK assumed power in the State.

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