THE THREE doctors, booked for abetment to suicide and caste-based harassment of Dr Payal Tadvi, claimed on Monday they were “tortured” by police. Hema Ahuja (27), Bhakti Mehare (28) and Ankita Khandelwal (26) made the claims outside the court in an outburst after the hearing on the extension of their judicial custody.
“Hamein torture kar rahe hai. Hamaari baat koi nahi sunta hai, just because someone has called us accused, we are not accused. Hamein nahi pata usne kyun suicide kiya (We are being tortured. Nobody is listening to us. We do not know why she committed suicide),” said Ahuja, while being escorted outside the courtroom and the court building.
During the hearing, special public prosecutor Raja Thakare sought an extension of the judicial custody of the accused and said they should continue to remain in jail.
Lawyer Gunratan Sadavarte, representing Payal’s parents, submitted that as per provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the proceedings in court should be videographed. The court directed the police to make arrangements during the next hearing. The court was urged to grant time till June 17 to make the arrangements, to which, the defence objected.
Lawyer Shailesh Kharat told the court a handycam can be arranged easily and the hearing should be expedited as the accused have already spent over two weeks in custody. The court, however, granted time till June 17 for the arrangements to be made and sent the accused to judicial custody till June 24.
After the hearing was completed, the accused doctors came forward and told their lawyer the police have handycams and should not delay the hearing. “The police are lying, they have three handy-cams… they used it to record our interrogation. Why are they seeking time, why is such a long date being given,” Mehare and Ahuja told the court. The court directed them to be escorted outside the courtroom.
In the corridor while being escorted to the police-van, the accused doctors broke down. Mehare screamed about being tortured. Earlier, the court had asked the accused if they had any complaints against police. Khandelwal shook her head indicating “no”, after being asked twice, while the other two did not give any response. “They are asking us to cooperate, we are cooperating with them. But, nobody is listening to what we have to say. They ask us questions, then beat us on our lips,” Ahuja said. None of them took names of who had tortured them or when.
On Thursday, the Bombay High Court had refused to give further custody of the accused but had allowed police to bring them out of jail from 9 am to 6 pm for interrogation till Sunday. Ahuja also claimed Payal’s husband Salman had intimidated them. Salman, who was also present in court along with Payal’s mother, Abida, said he had met the accused only once in his life after her death.
“I have only met them once. After her death, I saw them at the hospital. I asked them what they got out of harassing someone to the extent that she committed suicide,” Salman said. The special court is likely to hear arguments on bail on June 17.