When truth meets sunshine
Shivers must have gone down the spines of many in Mumbai with the super sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) reaching the metropolis to investigate the death by alleged suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
The Indian film and television industry has witnessed many natural and unnatural deaths this year, particularly after Coronavirus pandemic outbreak. But no death has been discussed as much as that of Sushant Singh Rajput’s, who had created a niche for himself with his dashing looks, charming smile and inherent acting talent. More than two months have passed since his dead body was found hanging by the ceiling fan of his bedroom, but the controversy surrounding his mysterious death is refusing to die down even after the Mumbai Police, once referred to as Scotland Yard of India, declared it to be the case of death by suicide. However, the media and social media refused to buy this theory, and rightly so, due to a bagful of circumstantial evidence and illogical explanations of the police and those who surrounded the young cine star’s life.
The CBI came into the picture after an interesting jurisdictional and legal drama played out between the two states -- Rajput’s home state Bihar and Maharashtra where he lived and died. The drama started soon after the Bihar Police filed an FIR on complaints of Rajput’s father Krishan Kishor Singh who had alleged conspiracy and misappropriation of his son’s money to the tune of Rs. 15 crore. While Mumbai Police was earlier accused of carrying out investigations in a lackluster manner, the suspicion that they might be trying to prevent the truth from coming out came to the fore when the Special Investigation Team of the Bihar Police was not extended any cooperation and one of its senior officers was put under quarantine. The drama finally ended with the Supreme Court justifying the Bihar government’s decision to refer to investigation to the CBI, which came as a slap on the face of the State of Maharashtra and Mumbai Police.
Justice Hrishikesh Roy in his judgement delivered on August 19 made several observations forcing the Maharashtra authorities to look for dark corners and hide their sullen faces.
“…because both states (Bihar and Maharashtra) are making acrimonious allegations of political interference against each other, the legitimacy of the investigation has come under a cloud. Accusing fingers are being pointed and people have taken the liberty to put out their own conjectures and theories. Such comments, responsible or otherwise, have led to speculative public discourse which have hogged media limelight. These developments unfortunately have the propensity to delay and misdirect the investigation. In such situation, there is reasonable apprehension of truth being a casualty and justice becoming a victim,” Justice Roy noted in his judgement.
“The actor Sushant Singh Rajput was a talented actor in the Mumbai film world and died well before his full potential could be realized. His family, friends and admirers are keenly (a)waiting the outcome of the investigation so that all the speculations floating around can be put to rest. Therefore a fair, competent and impartial investigation is the need of the hour…” Justice Roy said in the judgement while dismissing the appeal of the petitioner Rhea Chakraborty, Rajput’s girlfriend, who was into a live-in relationship with him. She had walked out of Rajput’s Bandra apartment just six days prior to Rajput’s dead body being discovered.
Mumbai Police and the State of Maharashtra had to cut a sorry figure in the Supreme Court. They were represented by some renowned lawyers but failed to convince the apex court that the FIR filed in Patna was legally invalid and must be transferred to Mumbai Police, as demanded by Rhea Chakraborty. The apex court agreed that Mumbai Police was carrying out its investigation under section 174 of the CrPc which lacked the scope to probe death by conspiracy angle. Mumbai Police had not filed an FIR in the case, giving rise to speculations that it might be trying to hush up the matter to save some bigwigs of politics and film industry.
The actual investigation to peel off the layers of mystery and alleged conspiracy surrounding Rajput’s death has now started. The CBI has said it will recreate the crime scene and has invited a team of doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to re-examine the autopsy report along with some top-notch forensic experts.
Lots have already been said that death by suicide was not possible considering the distance between a hanging Rajput’s feet and the bed was merely one inch. It has also been said that there were some injury marks on the body which find no mention in the post-mortem report as also that neither the Mumbai Police nor the doctors who wrote the post-mortem report have mentioned the timing of the death. There are allegations that Rhea Chakraborty gave him an overdose of medicines to turn him into a zombie, though Rajput’s family counters that he suffered from any form of depression and the alleged that Rs. 15 crore had disappeared from Rajput’s bank accounts.
Media reports have hinted at a link between two alleged suicides – Disha Salian’s and Rajput’s. Disha was an ex-manager of Rajput and a close confidante. Her dead body was found on the night of June 9, just five days ahead of Rajput’s death. Police termed her death also as suicide, saying she jumped off her 14th floor flat of Malad in Mumbai. CBI has said that it will investigate the connection between the two deaths, though media and social media say that Rajput had to die as Disha Salian had confided in him some secrets that could have jeopardized careers of some film personalities and political figures.
Much water has flown down Mumbai's Mithi River since the dead body of the 34-year-old actor was found. The possibility of tampering with evidence and dressing up the crime scene cannot be ruled out. Rajput’s fans have reasons to feel hopeful and satisfied with CBI starting the investigation. But one should not forget the fact that the CBI’s strike rate is definitely not 100 per cent. The Arushi Talwar murder case is a living example where the accused walked free as CBI could not go beyond suspicion and doubt with no evidence to establish the involvement of her parents in the cold-blooded murder of the teenager in 2008.
Let’s hope CBI manages to unearth the truth and expose the suspected mafia that is accused to be at work in the Hindi film industry which was rocked by the Me-Too scandals in not too distant a past and now by allegations of nepotism leading to suicide/murder of Rajput.
“…when integrity and credibility of the investigation is discernible, the truth, faith and confidence of the common man in the judicial process will resonate. When truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after Life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate,” Justice Roy noted in his historical judgment.
Let’s hope truth prevails and justice is done to the departed soul and his family.
(Senior journalist Ajay Jha’s column Top Drawer will appear here every Sunday)