The Mumbai Police Crime Branch has submitted to the Bombay High Court recently recorded statements of two friends of artist Chintan Upadhayay, arrested in connection to the murders of his wife Hema and her lawyer Harish Bhambhani.
The bodies of Hema and Bhambhani were found in a nullah at Kandivli on December 12, 2015. Chintan was arrested December 22 and has been lodged in Thane prison since then.
The police have alleged that Chintan met the other accused in the case at Chembur in the evening of December 8, 2015 to plan Hema’s murder. However, in their statements, the two friends, Sanjeev Khandekar and Vaishali Narkar — both artists — have claimed that Chintan had visited Khandekar’s house at Chembur the same evening to hand over a cheque to be delivered to Bhambhani. In his statement, Khandekar’s domestic help Arun Gurav also claimed that Chintan had visited the house the same evening.
Last year, the session court had rejected Chintan’s plea seeking the statements of Khandekar, Narkar and Gurav. Following this, Chintan had filed an appeal before the Bombay High Court, which had directed the Crime Branch to handover the statements to him.
Justice Sadhana S Jadhav said, “…it cannot be said that the said statements are irrelevant or inexpedient in the interest of justice and it would be for the court to decide the said issue.”
Khandekar’s statement said that on December 8, 2015, Chintan had visited him at his home before leaving for Delhi. It added that when Chintan arrived at his bungalow in Chembur between 4.30 pm to 5 pm, he was out. His help, Gurav, offered Chintan tea and after some time, he returned home. Narkar (who works at a studio in Khandekar’s house), too, arrived at the house and Chintan gave her a cheque of Rs 2 lakh and asked her to deliver it to Hema’s lawyer.
At 7 pm, Narkar booked a cab for Chintan and around 10 pm, received a notification that he had reached the airport. Late at night, Khandekar received a message from Chintan that he has reached Delhi.
Narkar, in her statement, said that she learnt that Chintan has arrived at Khandekar’s house around 5 pm. When she arrived at her studio, which is on the ground floor of Khandekar’s bungalow, she met Chintan and had tea with him and Khandekar. She also took the cheque of Rs 2 lakh from Chintan. The next day, she informed Chintan through a message that the cheque has been delivered.
In his statement, Gurav said that Chintan had arrived at the bungalow around 4 pm and asked for Khandekar and Narkar, who were not at home. Gurav asked him to wait in Khandekar’s room, offered him tea and then informed Narkar about Chintan’s arrival. Following this, he got busy in work. He added that around 6 pm, another domestic help came to the house to prepare dinner. At 6.30 pm, the help allegedly told Gurav that Chintan had returned to the house from somewhere.
According to the statement of another accused, Pradeep Rajbhar — recorded before the magistrate court — had met Chintan along with Vidhyadhar Rajbhar and Vijay Rajbhar (other accused in the case) at Chembur to hatch a conspiracy to kill Hema in the evening of December 8, 2015. However, last year, Pradeep had retracted his statement and told the trial court that he was coerced by the police to confess. Last week, the HC had rejected Chintan’s bail application.