Monu Bhaiyya is finally behind bars, even though he received VIP treatment: how else do you describe cups of tea and biscuits being brought into the room during the time the Union Minister’s son spent while being “interrogated” by the Special Investigation Team (SIT). At the end of the day, Ashish Mishra, son of Minister of State of Home Affairs Ajay Kumar Mishra, was sent to judicial custody.
This is what Uttar Pradesh Police’s DIG Upendra Kumar Agrawal, who is heading the SIT, said after the questioning, “We found that he was not cooperating. He was not telling certain things. On grounds of non-cooperation and evasive replies, we are taking Ashish into custody. He will be produced in court tomorrow. We will do sustained custodial interrogation.”
Going by the recent track record of the police, here’s a safe bet to take: Despite there being seemingly adequate evidence, including video recordings, to help the police connect the dots, the high-profile accused, who finally appeared before the police after summons were issued to him, won’t be convicted anytime soon.
In fact, but for some uncomfortable questions posed by a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, Mishra junior may still have been roaming free.
Here’s what the SC bench had asked the counsel for the UP government during the hearing in the matter: “What is the message that you are sending? Even in normal circumstances will the police not go immediately and arrest the accused? Things have not proceeded the way they should have. It appears to be only words and not actions.”
Under our justice delivery system, the onus of proving an accused’s guilt – or helping a guilty accused get away with their crime – lies with the prosecution (read the police).
Whether the cops are really conducting a fair probe or putting up a show for the common man – Noora Khusti-style – will become clear once the hearing for seeking the accused’s police custody happens tomorrow.
The Uttar Pradesh Police, in recent times, has gone overboard in seeking police custody of anybody who is seen as being on the opposing side of the Yogi Adityanath government. Why should it behave differently now that the accused is the son of a sitting Union minister?
As per reports, sources associated with the probe have leaked the story that most of the claims made by the high-profile accused have been found baseless or outright false, and even his alibi couldn’t stand police scrutiny.
If true, that is a job well begun.
But disproving an accused’s claims is one thing, proving the prosecution case is what matters in a criminal case. Can the UP Police do it? Within a few days, the case will be out of the media glare, the endless coverage will end, to be replaced by some other TRP-grabbing incident. Even the Supreme Court may eventually lose interest in the progress in the case. But the UP Police’s work won’t stop.
So far, the manner in which the cops have gone about doing their job – have they really been doing their job – doesn’t inspire too much confidence.
Videos of cops escorting Monu Bhaiyya, shielding him from the prying lens of media persons, while at the same time serving tea and showing the easy camaraderie that exists between the two sides is a clear indication of which way the case could be headed.
While Ashish Mishra’s short-term plans – he was reportedly trying to get the BJP ticket to contest next year’s Assembly elections, have gone for a toss, it is his long-term future that could be imperiled if the police do a half-decent job.
While conducting the probe, the SIT would do well to be mindful of the possibility of some more damaging videos about the gruesome incident may emerge. This possibility could be enough to deter the police from trying to help the accused.
It isn’t just Monu Bhaiyya’s future on the line. The trust that the common man is supposed to have in the police will take a severe hit if the ends of justice aren’t served in this case.
Maneesh Chhibber is a Consulting Editor with India Ahead News. The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author.