Jiah Khan case: CBI charges Sooraj Pancholi with abetment of suicide

The case went to the central agency after Jiah’s mother Rabia had moved the high court pleading that her daughter’s death be investigated as a homicide

The Central Bureau of Investigation has charged actor Sooraj Pancholi with abetment of the alleged suicide of actress Jiah Khan, according to the charge sheet filed by the agency on Wednesday.

Sooraj Pancholi and Jiah Khan
Sooraj Pancholi and Jiah Khan

Sooraj, said a top CBI official, refused repeated calls of the agency to undergo “some forensic tests relating to the case.” mid-day was the first to report on October 25 that the CBI will be charging Sooraj with abetment and not homicide.

Though the charge sheet does not mention Sooraj’s father, Aditya Pancholi, there are enough chances that the former actor “could be called for questioning when the trial starts” in a Mumbai court, sources said.

Sources told mid-day that Pancholi senior spent a number of days in the capital recently, meeting with influential friends and politicians, including Amar Singh. It was not immediately known what brought him to Delhi though there were rumours he was here to lobby for his son and also settle a real estate dispute.

“I have not yet been informed of this latest development,” said Aditya Pancholi. “I just heard it from other people. I am told it is not suspected to be homicide. I shall be able to react to it only once we are officially intimated about the new development.”

Jiah (real name Nafisa Khan), a British-American actress who was in a romantic relationship with Sooraj, was found hanging at her Juhu home on June 3, 2013. Advocate Dinesh Tiwari, who has been spearheading Jiah’s mother Rabia Khan’s legal battle to investigate the case as a murder, seemed happy with what the investigating agency gathered.

“The CBI has filed the charge sheet in the case and prime facie it appears that CBI has not done any investigation over and above what Mumbai police has already done,” said Tiwari, who is now the special public prosecutor in the case. He, however, added: “Section 306 IPC (abetment) is not an easy one. The trial will start on a strong note.”

Crucial to the case were documents that the CBI recovered during raids conducted at the Pancholis’ Juhu residence in May this year. These included letters written by Jiah to Sooraj and vice versa, as well as emails, text messages, Facebook chats, mobile handset clones from a forensic laboratory, and phone call details.

The CBI had also questioned a guard posted at Sagar Sangeet Building in Juhu, where Jiah lived with Rabia; a cook who accompanied the Pancholis when they rushed to the site of the suicide; a host of people from the Hindi film and fashion industry, and a jewellery designer who Khan had suspected of having an affair with Sooraj.

A CBI statement said Jiah first met (Sooraj) through Facebook in September 2012 and that the friendship bloomed into very close intimate relationship. “On the fateful day, Jiah had left the residence of the said private person where she had stayed with him for 2-3 days,” the statement said.

“She had a wordy duel on her mobile and accused him of telling lies about the meeting with a common lady friend. Jiah, who continuously messaged in this regard to him had infuriated him, and he deleted her BBM account from his mobile.” The CBI said Sooraj later got a call from Jiah at midnight, which “lasted for around 400 pulses and it was a hot wordy duel.”

“In the meanwhile, he sent certain SMS messages from his mobile which were abusive and accusatory,” said the statement. “Jiah’s mother returned to the flat and found her daughter hanging from the ceiling fan of the bed room.” Based on investigation and forensic examination of the collected material, the CBI concluded that Jiah’s death was “suicidal” in nature.

“The wilful conduct of the accused narrated in the note written by the deceased, her intimate relationship, the physical abuse, the mental & physical torture which she experienced, allegedly led the deceased to commit suicide.”

Rabia’s legal battle
Jiah’s mother Rabia has been insisting from the beginning that her daughter was killed and the Mumbai police had botched the case. She moved the high court, submitting reports by independent experts to support her contention that Jiah was murdered. On June 10, 2013, the police arrested Sooraj and booked him for abetment to suicide on the basis of the letter.

On July 1, 2013, the Bombay High Court granted Pancholi bail. The HC had observed that the letter, purportedly written by the deceased and found at her home, could not be considered a suicide note since it wasn't addressed to anyone in particular and was undated.

The case was transferred to the CBI in July 2014 following the orders of the Bombay High Court, which had directed the agency to probe whether the death was a suicide or homicide. The Mumbai police had earlier on January 16, 2013, had filed a 447-page charge sheet in Andheri magistrate's court before the case was transferred to CBI.

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