On the request of Goa government, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has recommended a CBI probe into the alleged murder of BJP leader and TikTok star Sonali Phogat who was found dead in Goa on August 23. Phogat’s family members have welcomed the move.
“The Goa government had written to the MHA requesting the case be handed over to the CBI. A recommendation to that effect has been sent to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT),” an MHA official said.
A DoPT official confirmed receipt of the recommendation. “The case is being handed over to the CBI. The process to obtain its consent is on,” the official said.
On August 22, a day after Phogat left for Goa, she died after consuming drugs, allegedly administered by her personal assistant Sudhir Sangwan and his friend Sukhwinder Singh during a late-night party. Sudhir and Sukhwinder are now in police custody.
The Goa Police, which investigated the case initially, had then said the accused, Sudhir and Sukhwinder, “intentionally gave the victim an obnoxious chemical substance in a liquid” hours before she died.
Phogat’s family had alleged that she could have possibly been murdered in an attempt to grab her property. She had assets worth around Rs 2.74 crore, according to her 2019 election affidavit.
Earlier, Inspector General of Goa Police Omvir Singh Bishnoi had said: “Based on witness statements (and) CCTV camera footage, Sudhir and Sukhwinder partied with the deceased and videos show that a substance was forcefully given to the victim by one of the accused. When confronted, Sukhwinder and Sudhir confessed that they intentionally made her drink an obnoxious chemical. Then she lost control and she was looked after (by the accused)…”
Police had registered a murder case against Sudhir and Sukhwinder on a complaint by Phogat’s brother Rinku Dhaka. Phogat’s family had said Sudhir was possibly just a “front man” and there could be a larger political conspiracy behind her death.
In his complaint, Rinku said Sudhir of Rohtak and Sukhwinder of Bhiwani met Phogat during her 2019 Assembly poll campaign. Rinku said Sudhir used to take care of Phogat’s finances and official work.
Earlier on Monday, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said his government decided to hand over the investigation to the CBI as desired by the Phogat family.
Talking to The Indian Express, Phogat’s brother-in-law Aman Punia said “from day one, we had been saying that there was much more than what is apparent. Only a CBI probe can bring out the truth and put behind the bars all those involved in Sonali’s murder”. “It is a sigh of relief for the family,” Phogat’s brother Rinku said.
On Sunday, a mahapanchayat of khaps in Hisar expressed solidarity with Phogat’s family and gave an ultimatum to the government till September 23 for ordering a CBI probe.
Phogat, who arrived in Goa on August 22 with Sudhir and Sukhwinder, had visited the Curlies beach shack in Anjuna the same night. Phogat’s death was first registered as an ‘unnatural death’ by the Goa Police after it was reported by the St Anthony’s Hospital in Anjuna where she was taken on the morning of August 23. Subsequently, a case of murder was filed based on a complaint by her brother.
After a post-mortem was conducted on Phogat’s body on August 25, doctors had reserved the cause of death ‘pending chemical analysis, histopathology and serological reports’. In the ‘Final/Provisional Cause of Death Certificate’, doctors had highlighted “multiple blunt force injuries on the body”.