Parting kick plugs Iqbal hole

Calcutta, Feb. 16: Calcutta police had built an interference-proof firewall in the Garden Reach murder case diary before it was snatched from their hands, working in a sentence that makes the arrest of Mohammad Iqbal unavoidable.

The revelation makes redundant claims by Trinamul sources that the chief minister has ordered "strong action" against Iqbal aka Munna, her party leader and CMC borough XV chairman whose name figures in the FIR on the murder of sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury.

A standout line in the case diary drawn up by the detective department reads: "Six places were raided to arrest Munna, but he could not be found as the accused was absconding."

An officer explained that line would make it practically impossible for Munna to be spared arrest, irrespective of what the Trinamul leadership asserts in public or orders in private.

Whether the CID, which has been handed the case after police commissioner R.K. Pachnanda was shunted out, will draw up a water-tight chargesheet will prove if the government's reported desire for "strong action" is met or not. Other pressure points where interference can affect the outcome of the probe also lie ahead.

However, in the run-up, the detective department has done its best to ensure Munna, close to urban development minister Firhad Hakim, does not go scot-free in the initial stage itself, police sources said.

A case diary is considered as the progress report of the investigation and has to be produced in court each day an accused is presented before it. A magistrate goes through the diary before deciding whether the accused should be granted bail or remanded in police or judicial custody.

According to insiders at the Lalbazar police headquarters, Munna was listed as a fugitive on Thursday morning after overnight raids to arrest him drew a blank.

"The word 'absconding' in the diary has made his arrest inevitable. We have clearly mentioned him as an accused, which means the CID team will have to explain his role in the incident before the court," a Calcutta police officer said.

Had the detective department not mentioned the efforts to arrest Munna in the case diary, the CID could have had the liberty to state in their finding that Munna's involvement could not be established, the officer said.

Pachnanda was removed as police commissioner because he had ordered the detective department to go all out to arrest Munna, ignoring diktats from Hakim, The Telegraph had learnt.

"Let us assume the CID is under pressure to give a clean chit to Munna…. Even for that they will have to interrogate him before coming to a conclusion that he was not involved in the murder. The CID cannot interrogate him without arresting him," the officer said.

"Even if the CID wants to drop all charges against him, they cannot do so in a hurry. They will have to arrest Munna and produce him before the court…. As he is an accused in a murder case, he will not get bail for some time," he explained.

Arrest cannot be equated with conviction and punishment. But if a perception gains ground in the Munna camp that the Trinamul leadership has sacrificed him to douse the controversy, it is expected to set the stage for realignments and retribution in the port division where much is at stake.

Some officers in the CID's Bhabani Bhavan concurred that the mention of the word "absconding" has made the case against Munna tight.

"The case diary is now a property of the court. We will have to produce it on the day when Abdus Subhan, the hitman, and his uncle Ibne Saud would be produced before the magistrate. The magistrate will obviously ask us about Munna, which will further increase the pressure for arresting him," said an officer of the CID's homicide wing.

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