A day after the probe into Dr Payal Tadvi’s suicide was transferred to the Mumbai Police Crime Branch, the three accused resident doctors were remanded in judicial custody till June 10 by the sessions court on Friday.
While Dr Bhakti Mehare was arrested on Tuesday, Dr Hema Ahuja and Dr Ankita Khandelwal were taken into custody the next day. They were remanded in police custody for two days on Wednesday.
The police said that statements of more than 30 faculty members of BYL Nair Hospital, where Tadvi had committed suicide on May 22, have been recorded and it has been learnt that the three accused doctors used to make casteist remarks against her.
“Whenever Tadvi could not complete the given work, the three would taunt her. They would ask about her marks in NEET exams and also try to demean her by asking her how she managed to get into BYL Nair Hospital. With an intention to belittle her more, they would then ask ‘tum reserved category se hona’ (you are from the reserved category, right),” an officer said.
At 2.45 pm on Wednesday, the three accused were produced before the court of Additional Session Judge R M Sadrani. The investigating officer of the case, Assistant Commissioner of Police Netaji Bhopale (Crime Branch), told the court that they need to inquire whether any suicide note was left behind by Tadvi, as Mehare and Ahuja were the first ones to reach the hostel room after she was found hanging. He added that they need to confront the witnesses and the accused.
While claiming that the three doctors arrested for abetting suicide have not been cooperating, Bhopale said: “All the three accused have been giving the same statements. It looks like they have been coached on what to tell us.”
Seeking seven days’ police custody of the accused, Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare told the court that their investigation is necessary, as the statements of the accused cannot be considered as the gospel truth. “We will have to cross verify the things they tell investigators.”
The prosecution also said that the investigation is on track but a few more days are needed to interrogate the three doctors, as the case was transferred to the Crime Branch only on Thursday.
To this, defence lawyer Abad Ponda said, “I understand that the case was transferred to the Crime Branch yesterday evening. We didn’t ask for Crime Branch investigation.”
He also questioned the investigator’s appeal for remand. “Is there a single witness who says that there is a suicide note, anyone who has said that we (the accused) came there and destroyed any suicide note? Since the day of suicide, we are just taking legal measures, we did not go inside the hostel to influence the witnesses.”
After hearing both sides, the court observed that while the case is being investigated for the last two days, no substantial evidence has been collected. “In my considered opinion, only for the purpose of confrontation between the accused and witnesses, police custody cannot be granted,” it said.
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