Jiah Khan case: Defence lawyer rubbishes murder charges against Sooraj Pancholi

A day after the prosecution in the Jiah Khan death case asked the court to frame abetment of suicide charges against actor Sooraj Pancholi, his lawyer, said that there isn't a shred of evidence to prove these charges

A day after the prosecution in the Jiah Khan death case asked the court to frame charges against actor Sooraj Pancholi, accused of abetting her suicide, for the actress' murder and rape, and forcing her to have an abortion, his lawyer, Prashant Patil, on Friday told Gaurav Dubey that there isn't a shred of evidence to prove these charges.

Excerpts from an interview.

Jiah Khan was found dead in her apartment on June 3, 2013 and The prosecution wants actor Sooraj to be tried for murder.
Jiah Khan was found dead in her apartment on June 3, 2013 and The prosecution wants actor Sooraj to be tried for murder.

Q. What happened on the night of June 3, 2013 (when Jiah Khan was found dead)?
A. What exactly happened that night is a matter of merit argument, which I will argue in court. I can only talk about what happened in court on Thursday. At Thursday's hearing, the court observed that the special public prosecutor is always absent, that the original complaint lawyer is not interested in opening the case and that even the special CBI counsel is not interested in opening the matter. So, it seems that the prosecution has failed miserably in opening the case, that is, prima facie, there's no case against the accused. In both chargesheets, there's absolutely no evidence under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC. That's why none of the counsels was in a situation to open the matter. This compelled me to file a discharge petition. I told the court that the most basic component to apply Section 306 is mens rea (criminal intent), and both the chargesheets have failed to arraign the accused on this.Secondly, all witnesses have deposed before the police and the CBI, but nobody has satisfied the components of section 306, including the complainant. So, the prosecution wanted to argue on Section 302 (murder) of the IPC. I told the court that if murder charges are arraigned, I will be the happiest person because there's not an iota of evidence under Section 302 against my client. My client goes scot-free if he is charged with Section 302.

Sooraj Pancholi's lawyer, Prashant Patil
Sooraj Pancholi's lawyer, Prashant Patil

Q. What about the claim of the foetus being extricated?
A. The prosecution wants Section 313 (causing miscarriage without the woman's consent) of the IPC to be applied. I told the court that the police and the CBI's chargesheets state that the deceased had signed a patient agreement form with her gynaecologist, Dr Sejal Desai, saying she wanted to discontinue the pregnancy of her own will. There's not a single shred of evidence that shows that the applicant is responsible for the termination of pregnancy. The patient agreement form states that the foetus was less than 7 weeks old, but according to the prosecution, the foetus was 3-4 weeks old. A 3-4-week-old foetus is not larger than a grain. How could a gynaecologist even pull out a foetus this small? In her statement to the police, Dr Sejal Desai said she had prescribed certain pills, which the deceased consumed them and then called her up in a couple of days to tell her that the foetus had been flushed out. So, this forcing an abortion theory does not hold water.

Q.A number of allegations have been made against your client.
A. It is very easy to level allegations before the media, but in court, evidence alone matters. Be it the police or the CBI, none has been able to find any evidence under Section 306 against my applicant. As far as Section 302 is concerned, a committee of five experts, appointed by the investigating agencies, ruled out homicidal death and confirmed suicide. After the first chargesheet (of the police) was submitted, the original complainant (Jiah Khan's mother Rabia Khan), with her so-called hidden camera, conducted a sting operation. But nobody viewed its contents. In it, she had a conversation with Dr Rahul Datta (who referred Jiah and Sooraj to Dr Sejal Desai when they approached him for an abortion), and asked him specific questions, like was the present applicant responsible for the termination of pregnancy of the deceased. Dr Datta said, "No." Then, the complainant asked him if the deceased had been under pressure to terminate the pregnancy; again, he said no. Dr Datta doesn't level a single allegation against the applicant.

Q. You filed an application on expediting the case three months ago. Why?
A. It's been over three years [since the alleged suicide], but my applicant has been targeted like a sitting duck. There have been many allegations against him and his family members, who were not even mentioned in the chargesheets. When there's an investigation, one should patiently wait for the investigation reports. We never intervened at any point of time in the whole process. But my applicant lost the prime period of his life. He was 21 when he went behind bars… He has been facing a lot of mental stress. When we had to field a defamation suit against the original complainant (Rabia Khan), she had committed to the high court that she would not use any defamatory remark against my client, but she has been continuing to do so. Under article 21 of the Constitution, even an accused has the right to demand expedition of a case. It's usually the complainant who goes for such expedition…. When we moved an application for expedition of the case, the court passed an order in our favour, but the prosecution has been seeking adjournments since then.

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