Botched up investigation might allow Pratul Ghosh to go free in alleged 2016 murder case
GUWAHATI : The owner of The Contour Hotel, Pratul Ghosh, is in the police custody now with allegations of involvement in the murder of his friend, Mridul Jyoti Das. However, he might walk free due to lack of clinching evidences.
A source in the city police Crime Branch said, “The initial investigation carried out by the then investigating team was full of lapses and there are not enough evidences to prove him guilty.”
Ghosh was held in connection with a case registered in Paltan Bazar police station under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) related to the murder of Mridul Jyoti Das. In the first information report (FIR) lodged by Mridul's brother Pranab Jyoti Das, Ghosh was named as the main accused.
The deceased Das, on 4th February 2016, was reported to have jumped off the 5th floor of The Contour Hotel. The local police registered a case of unnatural death on the same day.
Later, Pranab Jyoti Das (Mridul’s brother) registered a complaint accusing Pratul and two others of murdering Mridul. The murder case was registered on 19th March 2016.
The local police had claimed that Pratul has been absconding since the last two years. However, the Crime Branch source revealed that it’s been just 2-3 months that Pratul had absconded.
Actually, the case gained momentum after the Gauhati High Court pulled up the local police for not being able to apprehend Ghosh.
Mridul's family was unhappy over the police not being able to nab Ghosh for so long and had moved the Gauhati High Court recently with a prayer that the investigation be handed over to the CBI.
Interestingly, the investigating officers (IOs) of the case kept changing ever since the case was registered. Two months ago, Ratneshwar Das was made the IO of the case after which the investigation caught speed.
Crime Branch sources revealed that in the case diary updated previously, the CCTV footage was not recorded.
Mridul Das fell from the 5th floor and the investigating officer should have procured all the footages of the 5th floor when the incident happened.
Bapan Das, the then manager of the hotel said, “The police checked all the footages but did not ask me for any footage.”
He also said that the location where the incident happened is not under CCTV surveillance. But nothing in the case dairy reveals any investigation on the scrutiny of the CCTV footage.
Also, the two other friends who were drinking with Pratul and Mridul on the same day are still absconding, said the Crime Branch source.
According to Mridul's family, Ghosh, who was his friend, had called him to The Contour Hotel citing some urgent work. When Mridul reached around 1.30 am on February 4 2016, Ghosh and two others took him to room number 508 and allegedly beat him up resulting in his death. They then threw his body from the balcony of the room. Pranab alleged that Ghosh did not inform them about Mridul's death till his post-mortem was conducted.
Ghosh was apprehended from a posh dwelling in Kolkata
After the investigation caught momentum two months ago, the Crime Branch became involved and with specific information, it was known that Pratul Ghosh was living in Kolkata.
The Crime Branch team contacted the Kolkata Police Crime Branch which invited them to Kolkata.
After reaching Kolkata, both the teams worked jointly and the informers were activated.
The informers reported that Ghosh, along with his wife, was living in a posh house located at Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
The Eastern Metropolitan Bypass is a 29 kilometre long major road on the eastern part of Kolkata. It connects Ultadanga in Bidhannagar to Kamalgazi in Rajpur Sonarpur. The road is a major link to Salt Lake and Rajarhat localities of Kolkata.
The police team zeroed in on a Rs 1 crore flat located behind the Spring Club and apprehended Ghosh. His wife was present during the arrest.
The Crime Branch sources revealed that Ghosh did not confess to the crime. According to him, on 4th February 2016 he had left The Contour Hotel at around 4.30 am while the incident occurred at around 6.30 am.
The two other friends are still absconding and the Crime Branch sleuths are hunting for them.
Ghosh had approached Gauhati High Court for pre-arrest bail but the court rejected his plea on June 8, 2016. But according to Crime Branch sources he left Guwahati only four months ago as, until then, the local police had not tried to arrest him.
Ghosh also has homes in New Delhi and he kept travelling to Kolkata and New Delhi from Guwahati.
Hotel Contour steeped in scams and controversies
The Assam State Transport Workers’ Association recently protested alleging that The Contour Hotel is not paying the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) its pending dues and threatened that the hotel will be sealed if the dues are not paid by Monday (28th May).
General Secretary of the association, Dwijen Lahkar said, “Since 2011 to 2018, The Contour was supposed to pay Rs 11.73 crores but has only paid Rs 2.39 crores.”
He revealed that the hotel is yet to pay Rs 9.34 crores and if the money is not paid, the hotel will be sealed.
According to very highly placed sources in ASTC, North East Council (NEC) had sanctioned Rs 11,24,47,000 to construct a yatri niwas and a parking lot. This money was given to Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC). ASTC completed the construction of the building on 24th January 2011.
On 3rd February 2011, the then chief minister inaugurated the building and eventually the keys of the building were given to Pratul Ghosh.
The source said that the then managing director of ASTC, KN Chetia, the owner of Ghosh Brothers, Pratul Ghosh and the then transport minister, Chandan Brahma were very close to each other and a tender was put out in Dispur seeking bidders to take over the building on lease to make it a hotel.
Ghosh Brothers was the highest bidder and took the building on a rent of Rs 10,75,000 per month.
The keys were given to Ghosh Brothers with a condition that the 3rd floor of the building would be exclusively used as a guest house of the NEC. Interestingly, the source said that initially Ghosh Brothers did pay the rent on the building on time but at present, a huge amount remains due with the lessee defaulting on rent for a while now.
The question is how was a piece of construction meant for the public as a “yatri niwas” given to a private party on a lease of 10 years?
The incumbent ASTC Managing Director, AP Tewari (IPS), revealed that the authorities are concerned about the issue and he has already written to the vigilance department to conduct an enquiry.
Tewari also said, “We are already working on the issue and very soon the solution will be derived where the yatri niwas issue will be given priority.”