The Supreme Court on Thursday permitted three postgraduate medical students accused in the death by suicide of their junior, Payal Tadvi, to complete nine months remaining in their course from their college in Mumbai.
Adding a rider, the court asked the trio not to influence any witness, and to keep themselves away from the college and hospital as much as possible.
The accused — Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal — had completed two out of three years of the course at Topiwala National Medical College, Mumbai, in April 2019. They were working as residents in BYL Nair Charity Hospital, attached to the college.
The three had approached the SC seeking relaxation of a condition imposed by Bombay High Court, which, while granting them bail in August 2019, said they “shall not enter into the jurisdiction of Agripada Police Station (where the case is registered) and, more particularly, Topiwala National Medical College (B.Y.L. Nair Ch. Hospital)”.
Allowing the accused trio’s prayer, a bench of Justices U U Lalit, Vineet Saran and Ajay Rastogi said, “Even a convict is allowed to have academic pursuits while undergoing sentence and develop his potential as a human being to the fullest. The State apparatus must facilitate such pursuits rather than hamper any attempts in that behalf. The appellants, therefore, by any standard, are entitled to continue their courses of study subject to the caveat expressed…”
The bench said that “considering the matter in its entirety, and especially when the appellants have to undergo training under the same guide and in the same institution where they were registered, in our considered view ends of justice would be met if condition…as laid down by the High Court is relaxed and the appellants are permitted to go back to the college and the hospital to pursue their studies, subject to the following conditions”.
The bench asked them not to influence or attempt to influence any witness, present themselves for trial on dates fixed by the trial court, reside in the college and hospital quarters only if their registration as PG students requires them to be full-time residents there, and avail study leave and holiday or vacation so that their actual period of stay in the college and the hospital gets reduced to the maximum possible.
The court stated, “This order shall come into effect at the beginning of the second term of academic session 2020-21, and if such term has already begun, it shall come into effect from 12.10.2020.”
The three were arrested on May 29, 2019 following complaints of caste-based harassment by Tadvi’s mother.
Noting that the trio did not belong to Mumbai, the SC order said, “(The) majority of witnesses to be examined by the prosecution appear to be in permanent employment of the college and the hospital. It will be difficult to imagine that three lady doctors who do not otherwise belong to Mumbai will be able to influence any such witnesses by their mere presence in the college and the hospital.”
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