Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today granted anticipatory bail to producer Rahul Raj Singh, accused of abetting the suicide of actress Pratyusha Banerjee, after observing that prima facie there is no evidence to show that the accused "instigated or intended" the suicide.
"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 Mridula Bhatkar said.
The court was hearing the application filed by Mr Singh seeking pre-arrest bail after the sessions court rejected his plea. The High Court, while granting his application, directed Mr Singh to appear before the Bangur Nagar police, which is probing the case, thrice a week for two weeks.
"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 Raj Singh and Pratyusha banerjee 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 Mr Singh. "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 Mr Singh'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," Mr Pawaskar said.
The prosecutor also told the court that the police was also probing if Pratyusha Banerjee was forced by Mr Singh 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.
Mr Singh's lawyer Abaad Ponda argued that Rahul and Pratyusha were happy with each other and had even partied together the night before she 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.
Mr Ponda added that the post-mortem report also suggests that Pratyusha committed suicide and that it was not murder.