MUMBAI: A special court on Wednesday remanded three doctors of a state-run hospital, who were arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of a junior colleague by tormenting her with casteist slurs, in police custody till May 31.
Additional Sessions Judge R M Sadrani accepted the police's argument that the custody of Bhakti Mehere, Hema Ahuja and Ankita Khandelwal was required to ascertain if the victim left a suicide note and if the accused destroyed or misplaced it.
The police further told the court that while the mobile phones of the accused were seized, further time was required to recover their WhatsApp chats with the victim.
The police claimed that Payal Tadvi's body had a few injury marks which needed to be probed further, for which the postmortem report was awaited.
The three doctors were booked after their 26-year-old junior colleague at B Y L Nair Hospital allegedly hanged herself at her hostel room last Wednesday.
While Mehere was arrested on Tuesday evening, Ahuja and Khandelwal were caught in the early hours of Wednesday, a police official said.
Advocate Nitin Satpute, appearing for the victim's family, alleged that the injury marks revealed Tadvi was killed and hence, the accused should be booked under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
However, the accused's lawyer, Aabad Ponda, argued that the three doctors were not even aware of Tadvi's caste.
"Abetment of suicide is when someone intentionally wants to harm the person, but the accused (in this case) had only pulled her up for work and there was no mens rea (intention) to harm her," he said.
If the victim found no other option, she could have walked out of her job or lodged a complaint with the higher authorities (of the hospital), which she did not, he said.
Citing a WhatsApp chat, Ponda said that Tadvi told her mother no one in the hospital knew which caste she belonged to.
He said the police was just relying on the complaint of the victim's mother who did not attribute any specific role of the three accused in connection with the incident.
Another lawyer of the accused, Sandeep Bali, told the court that the victim was married to a doctor, but instead of staying with him, she was residing at a hostel.
"So, there might be a family issue that could have led her to take the extreme step," he said.
The defence lawyers also said that the room where Tadvi was allegedly found hanging was locked from inside, so there was no possibility of someone else being there.
The accused persons did not have access to Tadvi's room and it was the police who broke open the door and found the body, they said.
The three accused told the court that after the incident last Wednesday, they went to the hospital dean's office where they waited for about two to three hours to record their statements.
After Tadvi ended her life last week, her family alleged that the doctors taunted her by ragging and hurling casteist abuses as she belonged to a Scheduled Tribe.
The accused were subsequently booked under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Anti-Ragging Act, the IT Act and section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.