THE MUMBAI Police Crime Branch, which on Thursday got a nod from the Bombay High Court to interrogate the three doctors arrested in the Payal Tadvi suicide case, seeks to confront the accused with CCTV footage in which they are allegedly seen loitering near Tadvi’s room after she committed suicide on May 22, said police.
“There are certain matters emerging from the CCTV footage which have to be investigated,” Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare told the High Court on Thursday.
The three accused have been booked for alleged abetment of suicide of the 26-year-old doctor, who belonged to the Tadvi Bhil community. They were also booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act. They have denied the charge of caste-based harassment, claiming they pulled her up for “shirking work”.
A police officer said that in the CCTV footage, two of the accused — Hema Ahuja and Bhakti Mehare — are purportedly seen loitering near Tadvi’s room. They are suspected to have gone inside after her body was rushed to the hospital. “The victim’s phone was also inside the room, and hence, we want to find out if there was any attempt at destroying evidence,” said an official.
In the High Court, the Crime Branch also reiterated its request for custody of the accused, after a trial court had last week rejected its plea. “The accused have only said that they are innocent and they do not know anything,” Thakare told the HC.
After the arrests of Ahuja, Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal on May 29 by Agripada Police, the special court had granted them custody for two days. The case was then transferred to the Crime Branch which, on May 31, sought further custody. The special court, however, said custody could not be granted as no “substantial evidence” had been collected. The Crime Branch then approached the High Court.
Advocate Aabad Ponda and Shailesh Kharat, representing the three accused, objected to request for police custody. Ponda submitted that they have no objection to the accused being interrogated by police from morning to evening, after which they would return to jail under judicial custody.
Justice S S Shinde did not allow the Crime Branch plea seeking further custody but allowed them to interrogate the accused for a few hours every day till Sunday.
“…it will be open for the concerned investigating officer and his team to take respondents (accused) from Byculla jail to other places for interrogation. However, it is made clear that they should be brought back to the said jail before 6 pm,” stated the High Court. The accused are expected to be produced before the trial court on Monday, when their bail pleas are likely to be heard.
In court, Thakare had submitted that the Crime Branch had not got even a day’s custody of the accused after it took over the case. “They (the accused) are not habitual or hardcore criminals. What is the purpose of seeking their custody if they are making themselves available for investigation? They are medical officers… you (police) were given an opportunity earlier. The lower court has said that the police did nothing for two days when they were in your custody,” said Justice Shinde.
Thakare submitted that the police had been probing the case in those two days and added that the case diary could be perused to see the collected evidence, including statements of witnesses.
He said the probe had shown that Tadvi had faced “severe torture”.