After days of being questioned in the murder case of his artist wife Hema Upadhyay, Chintan Upadhyay, himself a contemporary artist, was arrested in the wee hours yesterday. His lawyer, however, alleged that Chintan was being implicated in the case, as the cops had not managed to find the main accused.
Hema Upadhyay murder case: Chintan drew storyboard to plan Hema and her lawyer's murder
Chintan Upadhyay is escorted to Borivli Metropolitan Court by cops on Tuesday, where he was remanded to police custody till January 1. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Chintan, who has been charged with murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence, was yesterday produced at Borivli Metropolitan Court number 17, along with four other arrested accused — tempo driver Vijay Rajbhar, Pradeep Rajbhar, Azad Rajbhar and Shivkumar Rajbhar, who was nabbed from Uttar Pradesh.
The prosecution sought police custody for Chintan, saying they would have to conduct forensic tests to match his DNA against the evidence in the case, as well as cross question him and the other accused to match their statements. Police also told the court they might have to take Chintan to other states for further investigation.
Following this, Chintan was remanded to police custody till January 1. Police custody for the other arrested accused was also extended till December 28.
The mutilated bodies of Hema and her divorce lawyer Harish Bhambhani were found in a drain in Kandivali on December 12. Investigations revealed they had been killed in an art warehouse owned by the main accused, Vidyadhar Rajbhar, also known as Gotu, who is currently on the run.
Chintan’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde told the court that his client and Hema had stopped living together in 2005, long before they filed for divorce in 2010.
“Chintan and Hema shared a cordial relationship even after 2005, and he had no ill will against her. Later they filed a divorce petition and were granted a divorce,” said the lawyer.
He also told the court that Chintan had passed on the Rs 40,000 alimony to Hema’s lawyer, Harish Bhambhani. “Chintan first informed Bhambhani that he would be delivering a demand draft and later called Bhambhani to check if he had got it,” he said.
In the remand application, the police had said that the absconding Gotu, who played a very important role in the crime, was in constant touch with Chintan. The defence argued that Chintan was in touch with the absconding accused Gotu as he was Chintan’s craftsman. The lawyer further added that Chintan was not even in Mumbai when the murder took place, and he only arrived in the city after Hema’s servant told him that she was not traceable or reachable on her mobile phone.
“Crime Branch has been questioning my client since day one. Now, since the police have been unable to catch Vidyadhar, they suddenly and deliberately began to link Chintan with the matter, even though he was in Delhi at the time of the incident,” the defence argued.
While leaving the court, Hema’s deceased lawyer, Harish’s family told the media they suspected Chintan’s involvement. As Chintan was escorted past them, Harish’s brother, Gop Bhambhani yelled, “You murderer! He is the b*****d!”
Hema’s cousin brother Deepak Prasad, who had earlier told mid-day he suspected Chintan, was also present in court. He said, “Since day one, I doubted Chintan.”
Chintan’s friends were upset at the developments. Artist Sanjeev Dandekar said that Chintan and Hema had remained on good terms. Every time he came to Mumbai, Hema would ask her cook to prepare meals for him as well.
“The Crime Branch had been questioning Chintan since day one, and he was cooperating with them. Why did the police suddenly arrest him? Vidyadhar is still on the run. On what basis did they arrest Chintan?” asked Dandekar.
Meanwhile, the family of Vijay Rajbhar — in whose tempo the bodies were taken to the ditch to be dumped — were unhappy with their earlier lawyer and so brought a new lawyer, Vikas Singh Goar, to court yesterday.
Sources in the police said they had recovered the chemical that was used to smother Hema and her lawyer to death. It was found in the same warehouse where the victims were killed. While the main accused, Gotu is still at large, the cops now suspect that one other person might have been involved in the conspiracy and are on the hunt for him. Cops also said the accused had discussed payments for the murder, and the force is now trying to determine whether any monetary transactions took place between them.