The Bombay High Court on Monday granted anticipatory bail to television producer Rahul Raj Singh who is an accused in television actress Pratyusha Banerjee's suicide case.
Rahul Raj Singh was spotted outside Bangur Nagar police station last week. Pic/PTI
Justice Mrudula Bhatkar observed that prima facie there is no evidence to show that the accused 'instigated or intended' the suicide. She said, "There should be instigation or provocation to commit the act of abetment of suicide and the prosecution has failed to prove it."
"From the statements of witnesses, it is clearly seen that harassment and disputes were there between the applicant accused (Rahul) and the victim (Pratyusha). But prima facie, there is nothing on record to show abetment," Justice Mrudula Bhatkar said.
"For an offence to be made out under section 306 of IPC (abetment to suicide) there should be instigation, intentional aid or an intent that the person should commit suicide. It is necessary to show whether the accused had mens rea (intention)," the court said.
It added that harassment or disputes can be a reason for a person to not like another person and take steps to end his or her life. "For that person, the behaviour of the other person may be the cause of his or her death. However, for an offence of abetment to be proved, there should be evidence to show instigation, provocation and intention," the court said.
Justice Bhatkar further said that how a person will react to the situation is unpredictable and sensitivity differs from one person to another. "Under such circumstances, unless the intention of the person held responsible for the suicide is brought on record prima facie, it cannot be said that it is abetment," the judge said.
The court in its chamber during the day heard the last telephonic conversation between Rahul and Pratyusha recorded on April 1 an hour before the actress committed suicide. "Throughout the conversation, the applicant accused is asking the victim (Pratyusha) not to take any drastic steps and assured her that he would return home immediately. After perusing all the facts of the case, this court is prima facie of the view that the police can investigate the case without any custodial interrogation of the accused," the court said.
The court also struck down the prosecution argument that it was still 'confused' if murder charges are applicable on Rahul. "The prosecution argument that they are suspicious and may want to invoke section 302 of IPC against the accused cannot be appreciated at this stage," the court said.
Special Public Prosecutor Nilesh Pawaskar, while seeking Rahul's custody, told the court that the police, after an initial probe, were looking into if murder charges were applicable in the case.
"We are confused and still seeing if section 302 of IPC is applicable. The probe has revealed that the accused is a drug addict. We want to see if he is also a peddler and had administered drugs to the victim. Several other girls have approached the police saying that they had been duped in the past by Rahul," Pawaskar said.
The prosecutor also told the court that the police was also probing if Pratyusha was forced by Rahul to abort her pregnancy. The court, however, said the police does not require the custody of the accused to invoke section 302 in the case. "Why is the police complicating the case? Right now, the offence registered against the accused is under section 306 for abetment. Show me the evidence for this section. Show me mens rea (intention), instigation and facilitation," Justice Bhatkar said.
Rahul's lawyer Abaad Ponda argued that Rahul and Pratyusha were happy with each other and had even partied together the night before Pratyusha committed suicide. "On April 1, Rahul had gone out in the afternoon to bring lunch when Pratyusha called him. Rahul berated her for drinking in the day time and told her that he would return soon," he said.
Ponda added that the post-mortem report also suggests that Pratyusha committed suicide and that it was not murder.
TV actress Pratyusha (of Balika Vadhu fame) was found hanging in the Goregaon apartment where she lived with Rahul. He was charged under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide), 504, (intentional insult), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code.
- With inputs from PTI