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A special court in Mumbai today rejected the bail application of women doctors Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal, arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of Dr. Payal Tadvi.
The court extended their judicial custody for fourteen days, until July 6.
The accused doctors, who were present in court today, are likely to file an appeal against this order at the Bombay High Court.
On May 22, Dr. Payal Tadvi, a postgraduate student at TN Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai, committed suicide by hanging herself in her hostel room.
Her family has accused three of her seniors of harassment and caste discrimination.
The accused have been booked under Sections 34 and 306 of the Indian Penal Code, Section 67 of Information Technology Act, Section 3 of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as well as the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act.
Last Friday, Additional Sessions Judge PB Jadhav heard arguments on the bail pleas of the three doctors and reserved orders.
Advocate Abad Ponda, appearing for the accused, referred to a WhatsApp message between Payal Tadvi and her mother, purportedly stating that nobody was aware of her caste in her college.
Ponda argued that it shows the accused did not have knowledge of Tadvi’s caste, and that the SC/ST Act does not apply in this case. He also pointed out that there are no allegations made about the caste of the victim in FIR filed by the Mumbai Police.
He further argued,
“Senior doctors from sensitive ward such as gynaecology are always under pressure. They were criticising Payal about her work, but never had an imagination that Payal would die. It is not an offence of homicide on our part. Harassment cannot be considered as abetment.
They are not hardened criminals who would instigate to commit suicide. Their professional careers have suffered. Who will marry them?”
The State of Maharashtra opposed the bail applications of the three accused doctors.
The Mumbai Police claimed that the accused doctors had continuously harassed Payal Tadvi and did not allow her to work.
Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakare, representing the Mumbai Police said,
“Dr. Payal’s mother, who is also a complainant, did not cook up story out of nowhere. The torture was going on since December 2018. Complaints were also made to the hospital superiors.”
Countering the claim about the WhatsApp messages, Thakare said the accused were aware about the victim’s caste and that Tadvi didn’t reveal her caste in the conversation with her mother because she did not want to make capital of the fact that she belonged to a particular community.
Arguing against the claims of lives and careers of the accused being shattered, Thakare said,
“Who was a deceased? Was she not a doctor and a woman? It is claimed that their careers are ruined and concerns are raised about who will marry them. However, the victim has already lost her life. What about her mother and the husband?”
Countering the claim that there is no mention of a certain community in the FIR of the police, Thakare said,
“FIR is not an encyclopaedia of entire investigation. This has been proven in several Supreme Court judgments. Investigation is an ongoing process. Therefore, not mentioning caste in FIR shouldn’t be a bone of contention for granting bail.”
Thakare submitted the latest case diary in an envelope and requested the court not to grant bail, as the investigation was in a crucial stage.
Advocate Gunaratna Sadavarte, representing the mother of Payal Tadvi, said that considering the gravity of the non-bailable offence committed by the accused, it was not a right stage to grant bail. He also made a request that the investigation be transferred to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The special court had on June 10 extended the judicial custody of three accused doctors of BYL Nair Hospital till June 21. Earlier, the Bombay High Court had refused to grant full custody of the accused to the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police.