The lawyer of former Tata Finance managing director Dilip Pendse, who allegedly committed suicide Wednesday, said his late client was tired of the prolonged litigation he was involved in, but was determined to prove his innocence. Pendse (61) allegedly hanged himself from the ceiling fan in his Dadar office Wednesday afternoon. In 2001, he had been sacked from Tata Finance after his alleged unauthorised dealings resulted in losses for the firm. The Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai Police had initially probed charges against him and six other executives, before the investigation was handed over to the CBI.
Advocate H H Nagi, who had known Pendse since 1975, said fighting the system for 16 years finally took its toll on his friend. “He must have done this in a moment of weakness. He wanted to prove his innocence, but I can say he failed to get justice. He is a victim of the legal system. Justice was not given to him for 16 years,” Nagi said.
In its initial probe, the Matunga police have said Pendse was in a state of depression over the litigation. However, Nagi said he never detected any outward sing of depression. “Dilip was not only my client but also a close friend. He was a strong man, a brilliant man. For a man of his calibre to do this is very shocking and unexpected,” the lawyer said. Nagi said Pendse woke up at 6 am as usual Wednesday and had breakfast with his wife Pramila in their first-floor home at Royal Grace Apartments, Dadar East. “He then went down to the temple in the building compound to pray, took the keys to his office from the building watchman, and went inside. He placed his phone in airplane mode so no one could contact him,” Nagi said.
According to the police, Pendse committed suicide some time between 9.30 am and 2.30 pm. When Pramila, concerned that he was not answering phone calls to come for lunch, went downstairs along with her house help. “The women found the office door locked from the inside. They asked a carpenter to cut a hole in the door, and found the body of Pendse hanging,” said B M Kakad, senior inspector, Matunga police station.
In his office, Pendse operated an informal private consultancy and devoted most of his time studying his case. “For a man to be fighting against the mighty government single-handedly in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court is a very difficult task. Apart from a few friends, he had no one by his side,” said Nagi. Pendse, Nagi said, was frustrated by the length of legal proceedings. While a suicide note found in Pendse’s office said that no one should be held responsible for his death, Nagi said his client took the extreme step due to the pending litigation.
On Thursday, a post-mortem was completed at Sion Hospital and the body was handed back to Pendse’s family. Kakad said that the family was awaiting the arrival of Pendse’s son Sagar from USA to carry out the final rites. A senior officer said only a preliminary statement of Pramila and the house help had been recorded. “We do not want to disturb the family as they are in shock,” said the official.