The Bombay High Court Thursday refused to grant crime branch the custody of three women doctors arrested for allegedly abetting the suicide of their junior colleague, but allowed it to interrogate them for four days.
A single bench of Justice S S Shinde said the crime branch can take the three accused from the Byculla Jail for questioning during the daytime.
"The arrested accused shall be taken from jail, where they are lodged today (Thursday) from 2 pm to 6 pm, and from 9 am to 6 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for interrogation," the court said.
The crime branch had earlier this week approached the HC seeking custody of the three doctors - Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Meher, and Ankita Khandelwal.
The trio, attached to the B Y L Nair Hospital, were arrested last week on the charges of abetment of suicide of their junior colleague Dr Payal Tadvi.
A special court had on Friday last remanded them to judicial custody after rejecting the police plea for further custody. Crime branch counsel Raja Thakare told the court on Thursday that it was handed over the probe in the case the day the lower court sent the three accused to judicial custody and hence it did not get an opportunity to interrogate them.
Mr Ponda, appearing for the three accused, opposed the plea and said the accused persons were ready to cooperate with the investigation and can be taken from the jail daily for questioning.
"The bail pleas filed by the accused are listed before the special court on June 10. The crime branch has three days time to question them and send them back to jail by the evening," Mr Ponda said.
The court, while agreeing to this said, "The accused persons are medical officers and are making themselves available for interrogation. They are not habitual offenders or hardcore criminals."
The court added that the crime branch, during its interrogation of the three accused should, keep these factors in mind.
Referring to the special court order remanding the three accused to judicial custody, Justice Shinde said, "The lower court has said the police did not do anything for two days when the three accused were in their custody."
"The state realises that it is a sensitive case, then when such an offence takes place why does the police not entrust investigations into the case to a senior officer immediately," Justice Shinde said.
Mr Ponda claimed the three accused had only pulled up the deceased for not performing her duty in the hospital and shirking work.
"The accused and the victim were attached to the women and child department of the hospital which is considered as a very sensitive department. Any lapse or flaw on part of the doctors there would result in serious consequences. The victim had on several occasions made mistakes in her reports," Mr Ponda claimed.
The accused have been booked under relevant section of the IPC and under the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.