Did he actually swallow 30-40 sleeping pills? Did he then walk up to the vehicle that carried him to hospital? Who gave him the pills?
Hours after doctors at Kolkata’s SSKM hospital had “washed” his stomach and “stabilised” the health of Kunal Ghosh, a prime accused in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam and once a high-profile face of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, police and doctors have begun to put together little pieces of the big suicide puzzle.
— Senior doctors at the hospital have privately questioned whether Ghosh actually consumed the 30 sleeping pills as he has claimed in a statement.
— Based on preliminary probe reports, Chief Minister Banerjee told the West Bengal Assembly that Ghosh had walked up to the vehicle that brought him to the hospital. He might have taken about 10 pills, she added.
— According to sources at the Presidency Correctional Home, where Ghosh consumed the pills, the suspended MP had bought two strips of alprazolam from the medical shop at the facility recently. One strip was recovered from his cell in the high security zone, after the suicide attempt.
Investigators and doctors are now awaiting further tests to unearth more details about the episode.
The government, meanwhile, has initiated an investigation and taken action against a number of officials. Four days ago, Ghosh had warned reporters outside a local court complex that he would commit suicide with the next three days because he claimed the CBI, which is investigating the scam, did not arrest the “real culprits”.
The CM has also suspended the superintendent of the correctional home and the doctor who prescribed the sleeping pills for Ghosh. She has also asked the State Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee to head the inquiry committee. “The Home Secretary is probing the matter and no one will be spared if he or she is found guilty in this case. The CBI has already filed a chargesheet,’’ she said.
The CBI is learnt to have sought an explanation from the state jail department and asked the government to step up security for Ghosh.
Local police, meanwhile, are questioning the guard deployed outside Ghosh’s cell to determine how he could consume so many pills. The jail department has also formed a committee to probe how the medical shop sold two strips of sleeping pills to Ghosh, when he was known to have been suffering from “acute depression”.
According to sources, Ghosh had been worried over the last few days about his mother whose health condition has been described as critical. They added that three suicide notes were recovered from his cell – two of them were addressed to the chief justices of Supreme Court and Kolkata High Court, and another to “common people”.
Ghosh’s lawyer Soumyajit Raha said that his client had suffered an “emotional breakdown” inside the court room on November 10, when he first issued the suicide threat. Raha added that Ghosh had claimed that the names he had mentioned to CBI in the case did not figure in the first chargesheet submitted by the agency.
The suicide attempt came to light in the early hours Friday when prison guards noticed Ghosh lying in his cell in an “abnormal position”. He was immediately moved to the SSKM hospital – at about 3 am – where he told doctors that he had consumed about 30-40 sleeping pills.
“He was drowsy when he was admitted,” said Pradip Mitra, director, SSKM hospital. “There was a chance he might had suffered some sort of poisoning. However, we washed his stomach immediately. We will send the contents to the forensic laboratory. Kunal Ghosh in his statement has said that he had taken around 30 to 40 pills.”
With the suicide attempt hitting the national headlines, the political fallout was immediate.
“When the person was repeatedly issuing threats of committing suicide, the government should have provided him with adequate security, but it did not do so and this is gross negligence on its part,’’ CPI(M)’s Surya Kanta Mishra, leader of opposition, said.
West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said that it would have helped Trinamool Congress if Ghosh had died. “The TMC would have benefitted because Kunal had been taking names in the case to the CBI,” he said.
BJP spokesperson Siddarthnath Singh, too, alleged that it was not a “suicide bid” but a “political conspiracy to get rid of Kunal Ghosh who had been naming the Saradha culprits for a long time.”
GHOSH & THE SCAM
* Kunal Ghosh was chief executive of the media organisations owned by the Saradha group and was arrested on November 24, 2013.
* The day before his arrest, he had claimed that police had ignored other TMC leaders with links to Saradha chairman Sudipta Sen. Ghosh also wrote a 21-page letter to CBI and Enforcement Directorate, mentioning the names of those he alleged were involved in the scam.
* Within two hours of his arrest, Ghosh named 12 people in a Facebook post, claiming that they – including four TMC MPs and CM Mamata Banerjee — could help police unravel the scam.
* A total of 36 cases were lodged against Ghosh subsequently – the attempt to suicide case lodged Friday has added one more to the list. While two cases were lodged by CBI, the rest were registered by employees of Saradha’s media ventures regarding non-payment of financial dues.
* Ghosh was granted bail in 35 cases barring the one registered by CBI in connection with the chit fund scam.