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Pratyusha case: HC refuses to transfer probe to Crime Branch

Pratyusha Benerjee

Mumbai : Observing that the city police was conducting a “fair and proper” investigation into the alleged suicide of TV star Pratyusha Banerjee, the Bombay High Court today refused to transfer probe to Mumbai Police Crime Branch as sought by the popular actress’ mother Shoma Banerjee.

“After perusing the records and investigation papers we are of the view that there is no need to transfer probe to any other agency. We do not feel that the police is doing any unfair or improper investigation as alleged by the petitioner (Shoma). We also do not think that the police is showing any favour to the accused (Pratyusha’s partner Rahul Raj Singh),” a division bench of justices N H Patil and A M Badar said.

The court, however, kept Shoma’s petition pending and directed the suburban Bangur Nagar police to file a progress report on the probe on May 4 before it.

“The police is on the right track. Any investigation requires time. Especially in such cases where there is no direct evidence there is more pressure on the police. The investigation is at a sensitive stage,” the court said.

The bench also noted that the Deputy Commissioner of Police concerned is supervising the probe.

Shoma’s lawyer K T Thomas claimed that the police investigation was misleading. “The investigation being done by the local police is misleading and we fear that in future it would be scuttled. We are seeking for the probe to be transferred to the crime branch under the supervision of the Commissioner of Police,” Thomas told the court.

He added that Shoma had told the police that she fears that her daughter was “murdered”.

Public prosecutor Sandeep Shinde, however, argued that Shoma in her first statement to the police on April 2 said she does not have any suspicion on anyone. “Only on April 5, the police received a complaint from the actress’ parents against Rahul,” Shinde said.

He added that the police has so far recorded the statements of 26 witnesses including the deceased’s relatives, friends, neighbours, maids and bank managers where the deceased had accounts.

“Two mobile phones belonging to the Pratyusha and one belonging to the accused Rahul has been seized by the police and sent to the forensic lab. The postmortem report suggests ligature marks on the deceased’s neck but the exact cause of death will be revealed only after we get the viscera report,” Shinde said.

The prosecutor also told the court that Pratyusha was pregnant. “According to our probe, Pratyusha had approached one Dr Shinde for treatment. We will record this doctor’s statement to ascertain what treatment she had undergone and if she had taken any medicines from him,” Shinde said.

He assured the court that the police was probing the case properly and hence it cannot be said that the investigation is tainted and unfair.

The court sought to know how much time the police would take to complete the entire probe and if the police has arrived at any opinion on the basis of whatever investigation has been done till now.

“Have you (police) arrived at any opinion as to if there was an intentional aid or abetment by the accused ? Admittedly the deceased and accused were staying together so there is bound to be number of phone calls between them and hence this may not show abetment. Messages sent and received may indicate if there was abetment,” the court said.

Shinde said the probe will be completed in two months. Pratyusha’s parents have been alleging that their daughter could not have committed suicide and that her partner Rahul Singh must have murdered her.

Rahul is at present out on pre-arrest bail. Last week, the parents of the TV star had written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeking a probe into her death by Mumbai Police Crime Branch following which the state government said it may be done.

Pratyusha’s mother Shoma had alleged that Rahul was “solely responsible for her death”.

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