CBI files closure report in Paresh Mesta death case, calls it accident

By, Bengaluru
Oct 05, 2022 12:37 AM IST

Mesta’s body was recovered from a pond “under mysterious circumstances” in Honnavar on December 6, 2017, soon after which communal riots broke out in the area.

Over five years on, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a ‘B’ report or closure report in connection with the death of 18-year-old Paresh Mesta in Honnavar in Uttara Kannada district, terming it is an “accident”, persons in the know of the development said on Tuesday.

18-year-old Paresh Mesta (HT Photo)
18-year-old Paresh Mesta (HT Photo)

Mesta’s body was recovered from a pond “under mysterious circumstances” in Honnavar on December 6, 2017, soon after which communal riots broke out in the area.

The CBI’s B report has termed the death as an accident, citing the post-mortem and forensic reports. The B report also cites the non-availability of evidence to corroborate the murder accusation made in the FIR. The report has been submitted to the Honnavar court, and the court will pronounce the verdict on November 16.

The CBI said that no evidence was found to prove that Mesta was murdered. The central agency is set to write to the magistrate court in Honnavar informing it that the investigation in the case has concluded. In a letter to Mesta’s family last week, an investigating officer said, “the probe has established that his death was due to an accident”.

“During the investigation, no incriminating evidence has emerged showing the involvement of accused persons and the medico-legal evidence/opinion collected from multiple institutions clearly established the cause of death of Paresh Mesta as anti-mortem drowning. Accordingly, a final report (closure report) is being filed before the jurisdictional court,” read the letter.

Over the years, Mesta had become the face of Hindutva politics for the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the 2018 elections. The BJP which was in Opposition in Karnataka at the time had claimed that it “was a communal murder of a Sangh Parivar worker by a Muslim gang”.

In the days following the murder BJP’s Udupi-Chikkamagaluru MP Shobha Karandlaje had claimed that “hot oil was poured on his body resulting in the body turning black” and had alleged that the murder was carried out by “jihadi elements”. She also claimed that a “Shivaji tattoo was removed from Mesta’s body by ripping his skin away”.

Reacting to the CBI report on Tuesday, Karandlaje said that she is yet to see the report. “It is not possible for a young boy like him to die accidentally,” she told reporters.

The case was handed over to the CBI by the then Congress government headed by Siddaramaiah 10 days after the death amid the allegations. According to an officer who supervised the case in 2017, “Mesta died while running away from a communal tension triggered by a road accident between a Muslim motorcyclist and a Hindu auto-rickshaw driver”.

“On 1 December, two processions – Hanuman Jayanti and Eid Milan – were to take place in Chandavar, a village 5 km away from the Honnavar. As per tradition, the Hindu community takes the Hanuman idol on a palanquin. Following meetings with the local administration, the decision on fixing different times for the two processions was taken. However, an issue broke out between the communities, over the Muslims placing green flags and other religious materials on the common route,” said the IPS officer, who did not want to be named.

While the tension over this issue was simmering, on December 6, alongside a temple festival, a Muslim community was distributing non-vegetarian food as part of their Eid celebrations, persons in the know of development said. Some people took objection to this, and this further increased the tensions, said the persons citied above.

“On December 6, at an area less than 1 km away from the ground, an accident took place between a Muslim motorcyclist and a Hindu auto-rickshaw driver. An argument over this led to a fight and a day later Mesta’s body was found in a pond nearby. Our initial finding was that he died of drowning and the forensic report also confirmed that he was not tortured as claimed,” the officer added.

The forensic report, quoted by the officer, was issued by Kasturba Hospital in Manipal on December 11, 2017. “The change in the colour of the deceased’s face is due to putrefaction. The fingers and toes of the deceased are in normal condition. There is no evidence suggestive of assault,” the report had concluded.

Deceased’s father Kamalakar Mesta said that even though the CBI has given a closure report in the case, he still believes it is a murder.

“The CBI has said that we (the family) can fight the case further. So, we will discuss and take a decision (to proceed with the case),” he said.

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    Arun Dev is an Assistant Editor with the Karnataka bureau of Hindustan Times. A journalist for over 10 years, he has written extensively on crime and politics.

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