The Maharashtra State Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe has found flaws in the police investigation into the suicide of Dr Payal Tadvi, observing that the police initially registered a case under the 1989 Act of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities), instead of registering sections under the amended Act of 2018.
While the police registered only one section under the Atrocity Act, the commission has pointed that at least five sections can be applied that attract a severe punishment. “We have communicated this to the police, and are recording the progress of the police investigation. But the police investigation has lacunae, it has not investigated the caste angle well so far,” said member secretary Sandesh Wagh.
Another commission member, Justice CL Thool, said at least three more resident doctors and a few patients, who were present in operation theatre on May 22 — the day Tadvi committed suicide at her hostel room in Nair hospital — and witnessed Tadvi getting scolded by three accused resident doctors, have come forward to record their statements.
The state SC/ST commission on Tuesday had taken suo motu cognizance of suicide by Tadvi, a second-year PG medical student of TN Topiwala National Medical College, who faced alleged harassment and caste discrimination by three seniors.
The commission observed that the Agripada police investigating the case has added Section 3(1) under the old Act, which relates to intentional insult with intent to humiliate a SC/ST member in public.
The commission has pointed that under the amended act, five sections under 3(1) and 3(2), related to abusing a member, humiliating, and intimidating, can be registered that attract a higher punishment, in certain cases 10 years to life imprisonment.
A senior IPS officer told The Indian Express that while only one section was added under the SC/ST Act, more sections were added during investigation under the amended act.
The commission has directed the police to collect CCTV footage of last one month from Nair hospital for evidence from operation theatre and wards wherever Tadvi was allegedly humiliated. It has also observed that the hostel room where Tadvi committed suicide remained open for four hours after her death, allowing easy tampering of evidence. It has recommended that the police must look into the forensic evidence in her room.
The commission, in its preliminary findings, has observed that Nair hospital did not have an SC/ST cell to handle atrocity complaints, neither did the dean take cognizance of a complaint letter by Tadvi’s mother that has inward stamp from his office.
Pratibha Shinde, from Lok Sangarsh Morcha, said very little has been done by police to investigate into the casteist remarks Tadvi faced.
“There is enough evidence to show Payal was harassed and subjected to caste discrimination,” Shinde added.