The Bombay High Court (HC) has strongly criticised the CBI for submitting a negative report to the passport authority about Jigna Vora despite her acquittal. The order, given on Monday and released in full on Wednesday, shows that the court found the CBI’s report in direct contradiction to the actual events and expressed dissatisfaction with their letter to the Regional Passport Office, which led to the rejection of her passport application. The court has granted Vora permission to reapply for a passport.
“In these circumstances, the CBI ought to have been fair and ought to have accordingly given a report, instead of stating that the case matter is still pending in CBI and her file should not be cleared, when in fact, there was no proceeding pending before any court of law, at the relevant time. Neither has the learned counsel for the CBI been able to point out, what were the proceedings which were pending before the CBI at the time when such a report was forwarded to the respondent regional passport office. Therefore, the report given by the CBI to the passport authority was clearly contrary to what had really taken place,” the court said in its order.
The court further said, “We, in the facts, express our displeasure at the conduct of the CBI.” Vora approached the HC in April after her plea was rejected by the Sessions Court. Her passport application had been turned down by the Mumbai Regional Passport Office due to an adverse police report and the CBI’s negative report. According to Vora’s lawyers, Advocate Meghashyam Kocharekar and Advocate Husayn Kopty, the regional passport office cited the CBI’s letter dated March 20, 2020, stating that ‘the case matter is still pending in the CBI’ as the reason for rejecting her passport application.
Kocharekar argued that there were no ongoing proceedings before the CBI Court or the HC, making the CBI’s remark to the passport authority baseless. He emphasised that Vora had been acquitted on merit by the trial court, with the HC confirming the judgment and order. Therefore, there were no pending court proceedings, and the passport authority had no grounds to deny her passport. “Even the CBI’s claim that the case was pending before the CBI contradicts the records, as there were no ongoing proceedings against the petitioner,” he argued.
The Passport Authority informed the court that upon receiving the CBI’s report stating the matter was pending with them, they closed the petitioner’s file seeking passport issuance. Vora was arrested in connection with the murder of mid-day journalist Jyotirmoy Dey in 2011 and was acquitted in 2018. A fictionalised account of the case, in the form of a series, The Scoop, was streamed on Netflix earlier this year.
Special Public Prosecutor Pradip Gharat, representing the CBI, argued that the passport authority should not have entertained the petitioner’s application because she failed to provide surety within six months of her acquittal, as required by Section 437A (bail to require accused to appear before next appellate Court) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). He claimed that this failure made her liable for an offence under Section 176 (Omission to give notice or information to public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The HC observed that the petitioner had indeed furnished a PR bond as directed by the court, and the trial court had granted an extension to furnish surety. “In these circumstances, there was no justification for the CBI to provide a report as they did to the regional passport office. The purpose of Section 437A is to ensure the presence of an accused before a higher forum after acquittal,” the court noted.
“In the present case, the petitioner appeared before the HC in response to the notice issued during the CBI’s appeal. Therefore, the CBI should have acted fairly and submitted an appropriate report instead of claiming the case was pending in the CBI when there were no ongoing court proceedings at the relevant time. The learned counsel for the CBI failed to identify any pending proceedings before the CBI when the report was forwarded to the passport authority. Hence, the CBI’s report was clearly at odds with the actual events,” the court observed.
Year J Dey was killed, Vora was arrested