Jiah Khan case: Will illegal abortion charge be added against Sooraj Pancholi?

Legal experts said Section 315 of the IPC could be used to nail Sooraj Pancholi in the Jiah Khan case, with the CBI laying down gory details of the abortion of the actress's 4-week-old foetus

'I was scared of getting pregnant but I gave you myself completely. The pain you have caused me every day has destroyed every bit of me, destroyed my soul and I aborted our baby when it hurt me deeply,' said the handwritten note recovered from the Juhu flat where actress Jiah Khan was found hanging from the ceiling fan on June 3, 2013.

Also read: CBI charge sheet logs details of Sooraj-Jiah's chaotic relationship

Jiah Khan
Jiah Khan

In the note, Jiah clearly expressed how the abortion had left her distraught — a fact that could be used to nail her boyfriend Sooraj Pancholi under Section 315 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which relates to foeticide or infanticide, which could make for a stronger case than abetment of suicide (Section 306), of which he was charged on Wednesday.

Also read: Note found in actress Jiah Khan suicide case

The CBI, in its chargesheet, did not include Section 315, but laid out a detailed series of events around the abortion, claiming Sooraj had pulled out the 4-week-old foetus from Jiah's body himself, finally flushing it down the toilet.

Special public prosecutor for the case, Advocate Dinesh Tiwari said, “In context to the letter by Jiah Khan, which the police recovered from her flat, Section 315 can be applied, as it strongly indicates she was against the abortion.”

Rabiya Khan
Praying for justice: “I am shattered; no tears are enough, no remedy for my aching soul, which prays for justice. He who could do this to my child, can be capable of anything,” said Jiah’s mother, Rabiya Khan at the prayer meet she held yesterday at the family’s Juhu residence. Pics/Nimesh Dave

Sordid details
While the Juhu police had missed this brutal treatment meted out to Jiah and the foetus, the CBI investigations revealed that Jiah had learnt of her pregnancy in January 2013, after she visited Dr Rahul Datta — a doctor known to the family. She complained of stomachache, and blood tests and a sonography confirmed she was pregnant.

The CBI's summary report further states that on January 16, 2013, Jiah and Sooraj went to Dr Datta, and he prescribed the tablets mifepristone and misoprostol, both of which induce abortions. After consuming the tablets, Jiah started bleeding profusely. Dr Datta referred her to gynaecologist Dr Sejal Desai, who saw her on January 19. She prescribed the tablet misoprostol after diagnosis, and also executed a Patient Agreement Form for Medical Abortion, which was signed by Jiah.

It was after a day or two that Dr Datta received a phone call from Sooraj, who informed him that 'half of the stuff' (referring to the foetus) was stuck inside. Dr Datta advised him to take Jiah to a nearby hospital. After some time, Sooraj informed Dr Datta that he had helped her to pull out the foetus.

However, on January 27, 2013, Jiah told her stylist Maneka Harisinghani over the phone that she had a severe cramp in her leg. She said that Sooraj had left upon seeing her in pain. When Maneka reached her apartment, she saw Sooraj helping Jiah inside the car, as she repeatedly said, 'I am sorry, I am sorry'. Maneka joined the couple in their visit to Kokilaben Hospital, where Jiah was admitted. At the time, Sooraj had informed the doctor about Jiah's abortion.

The CBI's summary statement further states 'On the basis of forensic statement analysis, it has been inferred that the statement given by Sooraj seems incomplete and fabricated on relevant issues. It indicates that he is concealing the relevant information related to the death/suicide of Jiah and does not want to disclose some content of his last argument with the deceased that may be a cause of her death/suicide.' The central investigating agency's suspicions were further roused by the fact that Sooraj had refused to undergo a polygraph test, brain mapping or narco-analysis.

Not too late
So then why has Section 315 been left out of the chargesheet? Legal experts said it is still not too late to add it to the chargesheet, as the court is yet to frame the charges.

Jiah Khan and Sooraj Pancholi
Jiah Khan and Sooraj Pancholi

A senior CBI officer said, “We have filed the chargesheet. The court has to go through the evidence and accordingly decide whether to add any further charges when the matter comes up.”

According to IPS officer-turned-criminal lawyer, Y P Singh, the CBI was merely being careful. “Criminal law moves around the principle of strict interpretation of the words, which constitute the specific ingredients of the offence. Since there are many grey areas with respect to the words in Section 315 of the IPC, the CBI might have decided to tread cautiously,” said Singh.

He added, “Nevertheless, during the trial, if it is found that there is sufficient evidence to apply Section 315, then it can be added by the public prosecutor. This would be pragmatic, because proving a case of abetment to suicide is not easy in such cases. Thus, if 306 fails, then Section 315 could rescue the prosecution's case.”

Noted criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said, “I do not know the evidence that the CBI has collected in the case, but at the stage of framing of charges, the court — after hearing both the prosecution and the defence — may add, alter or drop some charges as per the evidence.”

What is section 315
Section 315 of the Indian Penal Code reads: Act done with intent to prevent child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth. Whoever before the birth of any child does any act with the intention of thereby preventing that child from being born alive or causing it to die after its birth, and does by such act prevent that child from being born alive, or causes it to die after its birth, shall, if such act be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both.

'How can anyone just pull out a foetus?'

mid-day spoke to Sooraj’s father, actor Aditya Pancholi, who said the CBI’s chargesheet was a joke.

Aditya Pancholi

“We are going through the 40-page chargesheet. Whatever has been said is rubbish; it’s a joke. They are saying things that are not even possible. They are saying that her foetus was pulled out by Sooraj. How can anyone just extricate a foetus? Is this physically possible? Can people go around pulling out foetuses? This is ridiculous,” he said.

Aditya added, “Sooraj had only accompanied Jiah and her mother Rabiya to Dr Datta’s clinic in Juhu. He is their family doctor. She was four weeks pregnant and the doctor prescribed some medicines. In fact, it was after taking the medication that she fell ill. Rabiya was not happy with what the police was doing, so she wanted a CBI probe. There is nothing new in the chargesheet. Our lawyers are going through it, after which we will plan our course of action.”
— Inputs by Shaheen Parkar

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