Digital evidence helped cops secure conviction of Saibaba and others

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 09 Mar 2017 10:33:14

Staff Reporter,

The conviction of Prof G N Saibaba and five others for sedition and for being members of banned anti-national Maoist organisation, by Gadchiroli Sessions Court on Tuesday, is a landmark of sorts for the police machinery fighting the Maoists’ nefarious designs. For, it could be probably the first such case at least in Maharashtra in which the cops could establish the authenticity of digital evidence and records seized from Saibaba and others.

Gadchiroli Police, during the house search of Prof G N Saibaba, a professor of English with Delhi University, in his Delhi residence in May 2014, had seized extensive electronic gadgets like CDs, DVDs, pen­drives, hard-disc containing other Naxal literature, letters, correspondence, writings, reports of meetings, e­mails relating to banned organisation Communist Party of India (Maoist) and its frontal organisation Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

Ravindra Kadam was Deputy Inspector General (Gadchiroli-Gondia Range), when Gadchiroli Police searched the house of Prof Saibaba, is now Special Inspector General of Police, State Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Pune. Kadam told ‘The Hitavada’ that the court judgment in the case came as a morale booster for him and his team members especially Suhas Bawche, Investigating Officer.

“The hard work put in by our boys, and wonderful collection of evidence has paid well. The most significant aspect of the case is that we collected evidence properly and got its authenticity established by experts. This is a big thing considering that evidence was in CDs, DVDs, pen-drive, laptop, etc,” Kadam said. He said that ‘intelligentsia’ should draw right message from this case and not fall prey to the nefarious designs of Maoists in urban areas.

The cops tracked and collected evidences from the activities on Facebook account of another accused Hem Mishra. Also, they collected call records of mobile SIM nos. 9873877513 and 8860601278 belonging to Hem Mishra, mobile SIM no. 8394875017 belonging to another accused Prashant Rahi, and mobile SIM no. 8800100490 belonging to Saibaba. The police team collected all the evidence and then sent it for examination and certification from Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Mumbai.

The electronic gadgets -- 16 GB memory­card seized from the possession of Hem Mishra and CDs, DVDs, pen-drives, hard­disks seized from the house search of Saibaba were sent to CFSL for examination. CFSL report alongwith soft copies and data found in text form in 16 GB memory­card, and report regarding electronic data found in audio, video, photograph and text form in CDs, pen­drives, DVD, memory­cards, hard­disks were submitted to the court as exhibits. Video recording of the proceeding of the house search of Saibaba also was taken.

During the court hearings, opinion of expert was sought and the CFSL examination reports also were discussed. The expert told the court that he did not observe any changes, addition or tampering related to the files present in the exhibit provided. Further, based on ‘file signatures analysis, link file analysis, prefetch analysis, system information, MFT (Master File Table) details, registry analysis, time stamp analysis and USB analysis’, he came to the conclusion that there were no changes in text, audio and video.

This was, in a way, a challenging case for the cops as they were expected to get the grasp of high-end technological examination reports. Apart from the experts, the cops and lawyers had to go through the reports and also get to know several of these technologies. And, in all probability, this was the first case relating to Maoist network at least in Maharashtra in which the cops successfully secured conviction.