After languishing in judicial custody for over eight months, journalist Jigna Vora was finally granted bail by the Sessions Court on Friday, on a surety of Rs 1 lakh. Noting that Vora was a single mother with no criminal antecedents, special MCOCA judge SM Modak approved her bail. Vora is charged in the conspiracy to murder MiD DAY Editor (Investigations) J Dey, allegedly masterminded by Chhota Rajan.
Vora had filed a bail request pleading innocence and claiming she had been falsely implicated in the case. The application also stated that she had not made any phone calls to Rajan. Apart from her being a single mother with a child to take care of, the court also noted that there was little chance of her trying to pressurise witnesses, on being granted bail.
Another factor was Vora’s health. Her lawyers had told the court she needed hot water to bathe and drink due to her asthma problem. Moreover, no data of calls or SMSes were retrieved by police from six of her mobile phones.
According to cops, these would have clinched Vora’s link to Rajan prior to Dey’s murder. In total, eight mobile phones were sent for analysis to the Forensic Science Lab, Kalina. The reports of six of them were submitted to the court on July 23.
Despite the best efforts of the Crime Branch, most of the evidence gathered against Vora seems to have either fallen apart or hit roadblocks. Though the case against her was based on both circumstantial and physical evidence, the pieces of the puzzle have obstinately refused to fit together and reveal the larger picture.
The case of the Crime Branch was:
>> VORA WAS IN TOUCH WITH RAJAN: Based on mobile records, police hoped to prove that Vora was in contact with underworld don Chhota Rajan. Admittedly, Vora had interviewed Rajan for her newspaper in May 2011, about a month before Dey’s death. But the forensic reports that
came back this week turned up nothing to link Vora to the
>> VORA HAD EMAILED RAJAN: The Crime Branch had written to Google Inc seeking access to Vora’s email records, which would further strengthen their case that she was in touch with Rajan and had allegedly sent personal details of Dey, including his bike licence plate number, address and photograph to Rajan. However, Google turned down the request citing US privacy laws. The Crime Branch then sent a letter rogatory via Ministry of External Affairs to the US, hoping to gain access to Vora’s account. Google reportedly agreed to share information with the cops. However, joint CP (crime) Himanshu Roy declined to comment on any details they have provided thus far. “The matter is currently sub judice and it would be inappropriate of me to comment,” he said.
>> VORA DELIBERATELY LEFT MUMBAI BEFORE THE MURDER: While Dey was murdered on June 11 Vora had gone to Sikkim between June 9 and 19. The Crime Branch’s case was that Vora had deliberately left the city to avoid being linked to the killing. However, it later came to light that Vora had asked for sanctioned leave long before her departure, and was actually on a family holiday.
>> VORA HAD THREATENED DEY: According to a statement in the chargesheet made by a journalist and friend of Dey, Vora had sent him a threatening SMS after she found him interacting with her source Farid Tanashah. However, police are yet to recover the SMS itself from any of her phones.
>> VORA AND DEY HAD A PROFESSIONAL RIVALRY: The Crime Branch relied purely on two conflicting reports on Dawood Ibrahim by Dey and Vora respectively, to try and show that the two had a professional rivalry. While Dey had reported that Ibrahim was no longer in Pakistan, Vora’s report stated he was hiding in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.