Mumbai: In a new twist to veteran crime reporter J Dey murder case, police today arrested Jigna Vora, a senior woman journalist under the stringent Maharashtra control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) for allegedly abetting the crime.
Vora, Deputy Bureau Chief of The Asian Age, was produced before a designated MCOCA court which remanded her in police custody till December 1.
Judge S M Modak also took on record an application filed by her lawyer saying Vora feared that she may be forced by police to make a confession but she did not wish to make any such disclosure as she had not committed any crime.
As soon as Vora entered the court, her colleagues embraced her and she broke down and wept uncontrollably. A senior colleague was seen comforting her saying “Don’t worry, be bold, we shall fight it out”.
Vora was arrested under IPC sections 120-b (conspiracy), 302 (Murder), 34 (common intention) besides sections 3, 25 and 27 of Arms Act. Vora has also been charged with section 3(1), 3(2) and 3(4) of MCOCA.
According to police, she allegedly provided registration number of Dey’s motorcycle to underworld don Chhota Rajan, who allegedly ordered the killing as he had written articles against him.
Dey was shot dead in suburban Powai on June 11 by assailants who followed him on motorcycles.
Prosecutor Dilip Shah argued that police had learnt during investigation that Vora had passed on vital information to the Rajan gang which resulted in Dey’s murder. However, the motive behind the crime is yet to be established and police is working in that direction during the ongoing probe.
Seeking Vora’s custody, he said police wanted to know whether she had passed on information about Dey directly to the fugitive ganglord Chhota Rajan or members of the gang. Vora had been questioned earlier but she had misled police, he said.
At a press conference, Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik said “arrest is not an indication of guilt. She (Vora) has been arrested on suspicion and prima facie it appears that she has a role to play but investigations will reveal truth”.
Resident Editor of Asian Age, Hussain Zaidi, later told reporters, “I know Vora since last few years. She can do no wrong. Ultimately truth will come out.”
In the court, the prosecutor, seeking her custody, argued that police wanted to verify Vora’s telephone records and computer data to probe her alleged role.
Defence Girish Kulkarni claimed the case against Vora, eleventh accused to be arrested, was totally vague as police do not have material to say what exact role she had played.
Police are not yet clear whether Vora could have played a role of a conspirator or an abettor. In the absence of any such material, arrest under MCOCA was not justified. Police have seized her mobile and wanted to probe her computer data. For this, custody of Vora was not required, he argued.
The job of a journalist is to interview sources and publish articles and this may also include speaking to the underworld. However, police had no material to show Vora had talked to Rajan about Dey or his killing, her lawyer said.
Defence lawyer opposed the police argument that Vora had personal grudge against Dey and this perhaps could be the motive. There is no material on record to suggest this.
“It is the handiwork of police to implicate her. Right from the beginning of the probe, police have been saying that some persons in media had given information about Dey to gang leader Rajan. By arresting Vora, they now want to link her with the crime,” her lawyer argued.
Ten members of Rajan gang have already been arrested in the case – Rohee Thangappan Joseph alias Satish Kalya, Abhijeet Shinde, Arun Dake, Sachin Gaikwad, Anil Waghmode, Nilesh Shendge, Mangesh Agawane, Vinod Asrani, Paulson Joseph and Deepak Sisodia.