Tadvi suicide: HC calls investigators for gaps in probe

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The Bombay High Court hearing the bail pleas of three women doctors accused of abetting the suicide of their junior colleague Payal Tadvi on Tuesday pulled up the prosecution for "lacunae" in an investigation.

Justice Sadhana Jadhav, who was presiding over the matter, directed the crime branch to initiate proceedings seeking permission to take action against Dr Yi Ching Ling, who heads Obstetrics and Gynaecology department at the BYL Nair Hospital for "shirking responsibility".

Tadvi, 26, a second-year postgraduate medical student attached to BYL Nair Hospital, had committed suicide in her hostel room on May 22 allegedly due to ragging and casteist abuses hurled at her by the three doctors.

Tadvi belonged to a Scheduled Tribe (ST) community.

Her mother had claimed that Tadvi had complained to Dr Ling about the mental harassment faced by her daughter from the Hema Ahuja, Ankita Khandelwal and Bhakti Meher, who were her seniors at the department.

The accused trio had moved the high court after a special court rejected their bail pleas on June 24.

While hearing their bail pleas on Tuesday, the high court also observed that the medical profession was no more a noble one.

Justice Jadhav also suggested the medical licences of the accused doctors be "terminated" at least till the conclusion of the trial.

The observations came while the prosecution was reading out details from the charge sheet filed in the case.

Justice Jadhav said the material in the charge sheet suggested several "lacunae" in the investigation.

"Despite the fact that several colleagues of Dr Tadvi who were made witnesses in the case were in a vulnerable position now as they continued to be at the hospital, the Crime Branch had failed to record their statements before a magistrate under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)," Justice Jadhav said.

The statements recorded under the section 164 are admissible as evidence during trial.

Justice Jadhav granted three days to the crime branch to record the statements of "relevant witnesses" including that of Dr Tadvi's friend Dr Snehal Shinde, who, according to Tadvi's suicide note, was also facing similar harassment at the hands of the accused doctors.

Justice Jadhav also directed the investigators to initiate proceedings to seek necessary permissions to take action against Dr Ling.

"Dr Ling had clearly shirked responsibility by refusing to take cognisance of a complaint of harassment made by Tadvi's mother, and therefore, she must be added to the list of the accused persons in the case," noted Justice Jadhav.

The judge also directed the prosecutor, senior counsel Raja Thakre, to inform the court about the crime branch's plan of action regarding Dr Ling by August 9, the next date of hearing.

"Does not the investigating agency have the power to prosecute her (Dr Ling)? She shirked responsibility, refused to take any action. Look at the number of authorities that the mother (Tadvi's) went to raise a complaint," said Justice Jadhav.

The court also dismissed defence lawyer Abad Ponda's argument that the accused doctors deserved to be granted bail since they were not accused in a case of murder or homicide.

Ponda said the accused were "deeply sorry" and that they had never intended Dr Tadvi to end her life.

Justice Jadhav, however, said this comparison with homicide or murder did not fit the case since the accused had inflicted continuous "mental injury" on the deceased.

"Often it is said that physical injury is better than mental injury for the latter goes unseen and is left untreated.

"However, in the present case, there are no assumptions. The deceased and her family raised several complaints before the suicide, the mental injury was seen and it could have been curtailed, yet, no one too serious note of it. You can't say that this is not a case of murder or homicide for mental injury was inflicted upon her," Justice Jadhav observed.

When Ponda pointed out that the accused had already spent 70 days in custody and that their licences had been suspended, Justice Jadhav replied that their "licences should be terminated at least till the trial".

"Everyone merely said this is common in medical colleges. What kind of attitude is this where doctors like that? This profession is no nobler," Justice Jadhav said.

She was apparently referring to the scourge of ragging.

The prosecution also made a request that the media be prohibited from reporting on the bail proceedings.

To this, Justice Jadhav said she will pass an order later.

She, however, added that the prosecution must bear in mind that another bench of the HC had revoked a media gag order on the "sensitive" Sohrabuddin Shaikh alleged fake encounter case.

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