Updated: November 24, 2020 11:23:33 am
In a recent order, a special court rejected a plea filed by one of the three accused doctors — booked for the alleged suicide and harassment of their junior colleague Payal Tadvi — seeking exemption from appearance before court till the trial begins.
The court rejected the application, filed by Hema Ahuja, stating that in separate orders by the Bombay High Court (last year) and Supreme Court (last month), it was specified that the accused will have to remain present before court for each date except on rare occasions of unavoidable reasons.
Ahuja, in her exemption application, said she has been assigned duty in a Covid-19 ward, and that there is risk of spreading the infection while attending court. “Though there was a tremendous fear in the mind of the people due to the Covid-19 pandemic, considering the present scenario, circumstances, and statistics, the state and Central government have unlocked many things. Considering shifts of duties, the accused can certainly get her assigned such duty hours which will not restrain her from attending the dates in the case,” the court said. It added that considering that Ahuja is a doctor, she is presumed to be aware of all precautionary measures.
“Considering the time span and available information on Covid-19, nowadays, the spread is under control to a large extent,” the court said. “Doctors are aware of how to control it, and how a person can secure himself from being infected, and even spreading the infection.”
On Ahuja’s contention that the trial is yet to begin in the case, and that the court is currently hearing other applications, the court said, “…It is not certain when the stage of framing charges will arrive, since the accused are moving application after application before this court. The accused cannot take the benefit of their own acts of filing applications and then claim this court will take time to decide such applications.”
Ahuja had submitted that her absence will not affect the progress of the case, since the court is hearing miscellaneous applications, and that the trial is yet to start. She had also said she apprehends being a target of physical harm or abuse due to “unwarranted media hype”.
The state, through special public prosecutor Pradip Gharat, had opposed the plea, stating that there is a strong prima facie case against the accused, and that Ahuja was taking “undue advantage of being a doctor and the spread of the pandemic”.
Ahuja, along with Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal, face charges including sections under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, and abetment of suicide, destruction of evidence, and common intention under the Indian Penal Code after Tadvi, who was found dead in her hostel room on May 22 last year, named them in her suicide note and said they constantly harassed her.
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