On the plea of Himachal Pradesh Inspector General of Police Zahur Haider Zaidi, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked CBI Special Court, Chandigarh, that it may take up the Kotkhai custodial death case on “day-to-day basis and or on alternative days”.
The high court, in its order dated 29 September, requested the CBI court “to conclude the recording of the testimony of the official witnesses and in the process may endeavour to take up the case on day-to-day basis and or on alternative days or otherwise as it may be in fitness of things to conclude the testimony of all the prosecution witnesses on or before the next date of hearing before this Court”.
The next date of hearing in the high court is on 17 October.
The high court has pointed out that about 27 police officials are yet to be examined in the trial court while all the private witnesses have been examined.
Zaidi has been in jail in this case for 4 years and three months. After the High Court order, the CBI Special Court, in its order dated October 3, issued notices to all accused and CBI for 7 October. Besides Zaidi, former Shimla SP D W Negi, DSP Manoj Joshi, then Kotkhai Station House Officer Rajinder Singh, Head Constable Rafee Mohmmed and Constable Ranjeeta Steta are the other accused in the case.
The CBI had arrested these police officials for the death of a 29-year-old Nepali labourer Suraj Singh in police custody at the Kotkhai Police Station on 18 July 2017.
After public outcry for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old school girl in July 2017, the then Congress government had ordered for setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT). The SIT was headed by Zaidi. They arrested six people including Suraj on 13 July 2017, as suspects for the rape and murder. Suraj died in police custody and the police claimed another suspect Rajinder had killed him.
After the Himachal Pradesh High Court on 19 July 2017 handed over the matter to the CBI, the investigating agency probing the rape and murder of the minor and the custodial death case arrested Zaidi and seven other police officers on 29 July 2017. Later, the ninth police officer D W Negi was arrested on 16 November 2017 in connection with the custodial death case.
The findings of CBI concluded that there was no evidence of the involvement of the six suspects arrested by the SIT in the rape and murder of the minor. The agency arrested a woodcutter with a criminal past in the connect of the case.
On 8 May 2019, Supreme Court had transferred the custodial death case from Shimla to Chandigarh.