Journalist held in Dey case
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According to Crime Branch sources, Vora allegedly provided the licence plate number of Dey's motorcycle, his photograph, and his office and home addresses to fugitive gangster Chhota Rajan, who allegedly got Dey killed in June.
Vora also allegedly instigated Rajan by bringing to his notice some reports Dey had written against the gangster, Crime Branch officers claimed. "Vora was in regular touch with Rajan, and had brought to his notice reports that Dey had written against him. We believe she was the person who passed on Dey's photograph, his motorcycle licence plate number and office and residential addresses to Rajan," said a Crime Branch officer, who did not wish to be named. "We had initially believed that the conspiracy to murder Dey was hatched on June 4, when Rajan called up arrested accused Satish Kalia. However, we now believe the date goes back to sometime in May, when Vora called up Rajan and told him about Dey's articles," he added.
Vora is the eleventh person to be arrested in the case. She has been booked under the Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy and murder, and under sections of the Arms Act and the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). Crime Branch officers claimed they had gathered strong proof of Vora's involvement in the murder, and had "technical evidence" to back their claims.
Vora's arrest had been on the cards, with the Crime Branch on November 2 seeking an extension for filing a chargesheet in the case by stating that it had to probe the role of a journalist in Dey's murder. The Crime Branch was granted an extension of 30 days. "We had approached the court as we needed more time to deliberate whether we had enough evidence her to proceed with custodial interrogation. We have taken legal opinion and after careful consideration, we have proceeded with Jigna Vora's arrest for her role in the conspiracy behind J Dey's murder," said Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy. "We would not take such a step without having strong proof. We have enough testimonial, technical and circumstantial evidence to back up our case against her," said Roy.
Sources revealed that the police have telephone and e-mail intercepts of communication between Rajan and Vora, along with the statements of some other journalists who have been made witnesses in the case, as evidence against Vora. On Friday morning, Vora was arrested by Unit 1 of the Crime Branch from her residence in Ghatkopar (East). She was produced before the special MCOCA Court, where she was remanded to police custody till December 1.
According to a remand application submitted in court by the police, Vora is accused of "direct involvement" in the murder by imparting information about Dey's movement, his home address, and his vehicle details to the assailants through electronic medium. "She did not get involved innocently. She was exactly aware of the consequence. It is a regular tactic in which an organised syndicate operates. One person is used to provide information, and the syndicate works on that information to commit the crime. Jigna acted as an information provider," special public prosecutor Dilip Shah told the court.
Vora, was produced in court in a veil. On being asked whether she was beaten or intimidated by the police while in custody, she told the court that she had no complaints against the police. "We have had sustained interrogation of the accused twice before. Not once did she give us any information. She, in fact, tried to misguide the police on investigations," Shah argued in the court.
However, Vora's lawyer Girish Kulkarni called the allegations vague and said the investigation has been in limbo since the beginning. "This is an ideal case where investigators try to fill in the missing link. How was the information disseminated, the police is yet to find that out. So when no one else is available, they make Jigna an accused as she had interviewed an underworld don," argued Kulkarni. He also alleged that the police was making desperate attempts just to save its skin on the next date before the court, when they would have to file a chargesheet.
The court had earlier granted the Crime Branch an extension till December 3 to file a chargesheet in the case.
In his arguments, Shah claimed that Vora had allegedly tried to mislead the police by publishing stories of a possible role of the Dawood Ibrahim gang in the murder.
While pressing for judicial custody, Kulkarni argued, "She has interviewed Chhota Rajan and has reproduced the interview in the daily a day later. It is available for the police to refer to. Talking to a crime syndicate does not make you a part of it, until the police has evidence to show her involvement."
The police claimed that along with her link in this murder case, they were yet to ascertain if she was an active part of the syndicate. Vora, who was flanked by her colleagues and friends from The Asian Age, was consoled every time she broke down in the court. "We stand by Jigna Vora. She is innocent and has impeccable integrity. As an organisation and as her Editor, we stand by her, the truth will come out," said Hussain Zaidi, The Asian Age's Mumbai editor.
Zaidi added that he had known her for over six years and had only appreciated her good work. "She is a hard working reporter, who worked hard to get stories. She did not indulge in any ill practice for her stories. She believed and practiced good journalism," Zaidi added.
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