'Rhea has challenged our FIR. But we're going to fight that'

Updated: Aug 02, 2020, 10:33 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

With SC to decide on August 5 if Patna Police should have anything to do with the Sushant Singh Rajput case, IG in-charge Sanjay Singh says he's closely following his men in Mumbai, famously circling around in city's autorickshaws

A team from the Patna Police seen coming out from the Bandra branch of Kotak Mahindra Bank, after procuring bank details in connection with Sushant Singh Rajput's death. Pic/Shadab Khan
A team from the Patna Police seen coming out from the Bandra branch of Kotak Mahindra Bank, after procuring bank details in connection with Sushant Singh Rajput's death. Pic/Shadab Khan

There's Nishant Kumar, SHO, Rajiv Nagar police station, where [late actor] Sushant Singh Rajput's father KK Singh had filed an official complaint. The other three are inspector Manoranjan Bharti and sub-inspectors Qaisar Alam and Durgesh Gehlot," says Sanjay Singh, inspector general, Patna Police, identifying his four men in Mumbai, investigating Rajput's death. As microphones and camera crews follow them around the city, they show up every night, getting off and on autorickshaws on prime-time news.

While Singh is cautiously non-committal with details in public, sources in his team suggest they've visited Rajput's Bandra apartment, met his cook, bodyguard, and other staff, including the locksmith who broke open the room on the day Rajput allegedly died by suicide. This was on June 14.

For about 40 days since, Mumbai Police had been investigating the case, chiefly lining up public figures from the film industry, seeking to establish connection of Rajput's death with nepotism/favouritism in Bollywood.

They'd filed an accidental death report (ADR).

Sanjay Singh, inspector general, Patna Police
Sanjay Singh, inspector general, Patna Police

Rajput's family in Patna introduced a completely new angle to the story on July 25. Singh recalls, "That was a Saturday. On Monday (July 27), the SSP sought my permission and an SIT (Special Investigating Team) was moved to Mumbai."

On July 28, while the Patna Police team waited all day for audience with DCP, Bandra, is when the press got whiff, and Singh confirmed to PTI that Rajput's father had filed a strongly-worded complaint against the actor's girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty—alleging, among other crimes, financial fraud and abetment to suicide. An FIR had been registered by the Patna Police.

Given that the Mumbai Police was already investigating the case, would it not have been prudent to pass on the complaint (plus the FIR) to it instead? Singh says, "Sushant is no more. The person who has been allegedly cheated, the aggrieved party therefore, is his father. He is in Patna. Whenever there is a cognisable offence, reported to a police station, it is our duty to file a first information report (FIR). Once you read it, you know that point-wise, we have to verify the facts. Our future action depends on that. Moreover, Mumbai Police till date has not registered any FIR in this matter."

While social media and television news debates, night after night, had been engaged in questioning/shattering power structures of Bollywood over the death of its star, Rajput's family had been quietly carrying on a personal, shadow inquiry of its own, seemingly disappointed with the route the Mumbai Police had taken.

Rajput's brother-in-law, OP Singh, commissioner of police, Faridabad, it appears, also helped the family establish contact with peers, procuring necessary papers, especially to do with financial records. Youngest of siblings, Rajput had four sisters, one of whom, Meetu Singh, lives in Mumbai, and has recorded her statement with the visiting Patna Police.

According to an insider, the family, notably sister Meetu, was aware of Rajput having been diagnosed with, and seeking medical help, for depression. The father alleges he had lost contact with his son, owing to Chakraborty's presence in his life. One of Rajput's close friends Mukesh Shetty, according to a source, has also made a similar statement to the officers from Patna.

"Something is surely abnormal here," Singh says. What about the Bollywood connection? "We're far from that," he admits. Singh's own Bollywood association, in an accidental sort of way, is that he was superintendent of police in Gaya, when his fellow IITian and whistleblower in the national highway project, Satyendra Dubey, was gunned down in 2004. Dubey was reprised in the Prakash Jha film Satyagraha, and most recently in Anubhav Sinha's Article 15, with Ayushmann Khurana playing the cop's part.

As for Singh's men in Mumbai, Chakraborty, the accused, has approached the Supreme Court to transfer the case back to Mumbai Police. "She has challenged our FIR. We're going to fight that; keeping fingers crossed." The case comes up for hearing on August 5. The Bihar Police have engaged top lawyer Mukul Rohatgi to represent them.

Meanwhile, Singh has instructed his team to "collect all evidence, we will continue our investigation." Apparently after initial reluctance, Mumbai Police promised them support on July 31. "We've asked for death-related documents. Otherwise we don't need much help with questioning the witnesses."

So far, according to a source, the officials have accessed Rajput's bank statements from Kotak Mahindra, HDFC and ICICI branches, and met his psychiatrist; several other interviews are lined up. One of the interviews saw Nishant Kumar and Co., rendered faceless by a mask, otherwise in an autorickshaw—nothing like Keystone cops—finding themselves in a swanky Jaguar (as seen on TV): "Oh, I'm told they had walked three kilometres to meet a witness [actor Ankita Lokhande], who offered her car to the nearest autorickshaw," says Singh.

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