After the police confessed to having reached a dead end in the case where skeletal remains of a three-year-old girl were found at a construction site in 2009, the Bombay High Court transferred the probe to the crime branch.
A division bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice UD Salvi asked a senior officer of the crime branch to take over the investigation and submit a progress report in four weeks.
The high court was hearing a petition filed by Upendra Rai, the girl’s father, seeking investigation by an independent agency.
Shreya (3) had gone missing from her residence on October 14, 2009.
On December 3, 2009, her remains were found at a construction site in Borivli. Rai’s advocate, Anand Jondhale, argued that the girl was beheaded and her hair was missing.
The family had told the police that they suspected Umashankar Pandey, the head priest at a nearby temple. As the girl had gone missing around Diwali, the possibility of child sacrifice cannot be ruled out, argued Jondhale. Roma Khan, an expert in Forensic Archaeology Crime Scene and International Investigations, prepared a report, which suggested that the girl was a victim of child sacrifice.
Khan had assisted in the infamous Nithari case in 2006 where the body parts of 19 women and children were found in a drain behind Moninder Singh Pandher’s bungalow.
She had offered help to Rai after learning about the case.
According to the petition, a 10-year-old boy told Rai’s wife that he had seen Shreya with their neighbour, Pawan Pandey, near the temple. Pawan is Umashankar’s relative. The police arrested Pawan but were forced to release him because he was a minor.