While hearing the bail plea of the accused doctors in the Payal Tadvi suicide case, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought the opinion of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch as to whether Dr Yi Ching Ling, the head of the gynaecology and obstetrics department at Nair Hospital, has been held responsible for abetting the offence of ragging Dr Payal Tadvi.
Referring to the statements in the chargesheet, Justice Sadhana Jadhav noted that only one doctor had taken action on a complaint that had been filed by Tadvi, prior to her suicide, by transferring her to another unit; Dr Ling had taken no action. The court said no action had been taken against Dr Ling despite the fact that Payal’s mother had approached her several times with complaints. The court was hearing the bail applications of the accused, Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal.
“Why is she (Dr Ling) not being prosecuted under Section 7 of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act… How can police after such statements not take action… see the number of people, including Payal’s mother, who have made complaints. She (mother) was apprehensive as if she complains to the Dean, her daughter might have to face certain consequences,” Justice Jadhav told Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare.
Section 7 of the Act says that if the head of an educational institution fails or neglects to take action on a complaint of ragging, that person shall be deemed to have abetted the offence of ragging and shall, on conviction, be punished.
The court said Payal’s family members had complained numerous times to the authorities, including to Dr Ling, who failed to inform the dean of the hospital.
“Why complaints were not taken seriously by the hospital? There were so many signals… the statements revealed that she (Tadvi) would commit suicide. We are dealing only about Nair Hospital but it is for all the hospitals, how many students will sacrifice for such people? Is it not the responsibility of the institution? It is time we address this issue,” Justice Jadhav said.
The court also noted that though several of Tadvi’s colleagues are now in a vulnerable position, as they continue to be at the hospital despite being made witnesses in the case, the Crime Branch had failed to record their statements before a magistrate under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Under this provision, any metropolitan magistrate or judicial magistrate may record any confession or statement made to him in the course of an investigation.
“We don’t have witness protection. What makes you not record their statement, what if the circumstances change in the future?” said Justice Jadhav.
She added Payal herself had, in her suicide note, worried about how her roommate and colleague Dr Snehal Shinde would cope with the three accused.
Thakare said the investigators would record the statements under Section 164 of the CrPC by Friday. Opposing the bail application of the three accused, Thakare argued that charges against them are grave. “There is a long standing ragging to such an extent that the girl, who is a doctor, took a step by committing suicide,” he told the court. Referring to the witness statements, Justice Jadhav said, “What we call a noble profession does not remain noble. You see the attitude of these doctors (the three accused) toward their staff and juniors.”
Advocate Aabad Ponda, representing the accused doctors, argued that their intention was never for anyone to die. “I can’t dispute the fact that a human life has gone. We all are sorry. It is a lesson learned by all, including the accused. But it is not a murder, terror or other grave charge,” Ponda said.
To this, Justice Jadhav said there is a mental injury in this case to Tadvi, which cannot be compared.