The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered CBI probe into the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput and asked Mumbai Police to hand over all evidence collected so far in the case to CBI.
The case, which was initially ruled out as suicide by the Mumbai Police suggesting “no foul play”, took a dramatic turn after Sushant’s father KK Singh filed an FIR accusing the actor’s girlfriend and actress Rhea Chakraborty of abetting to suicide.
Besides Rhea, Singh has also named her parents and brother among others of defrauding Sushant as well.
The FIR, which was filed in Patna had the Bihar police come to Mumbai and conduct an independent investigation.
Amid the tension between the two state polices and their governments, Sushant’s case became the centre of political mudslinging and added fuel to the ongoing debate around nepotism.
With the industry divided, a campaign demanding CBI for SSR became their ultimate goal, which was successfully delivered by the apex court.
With Sushant’s family members and a part of the film fraternity celebrating the verdict, fans bursting firecrackers assuming it is a step towards their victory, let us take a step back and look at CBI’s record of solving suicide cases.
What is abetment to suicide and the punishment for those found guilty?
As per Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, Abetment of suicide—If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
A person is guilty of abetment when:
1) He instigates someone to commit suicide (or)
2) He is part of a conspiracy to make a person commit suicide (or)
3) He intentionally helps the victim to commit suicide by doing an act or by not doing something that he was bound to do
According to a report by India Today, the CBI’s conviction rate is 65 to 70%, and can be compared to the best investigative agencies in the world.
However, when it comes to a case involving abetment to suicide, there are no cases that have reached a logical conclusion.
To simplify, the central agency has probed a handful of cases and has been unsuccessful in proving that the accused drove the deceased to commit suicide.
Besides Sushant, the CBI has also been probing the case of Bollywood actress Jiah Khan who was found hanging at her Juhu residence in 2013.
Jiah’s mother accused actor Sooraj Pancholi of abetting to suicide and asserted that her daughter was murdered.
The CBI filed a chargesheet in 2017, but nothing has been proven so far.
The report also quoted an officer who has investigated a similar case and suggested that in the case of Sec 306 of the IPC, “the accused intention is more important than and what the deceased felt.”
Now with Sushant’s death it is extremely difficult to prove what his father has said. Not to mention there was no suicide note found either.
Sushant was found hanging at his Bandra residence on June 14, 2020. He was 34.
The officer maintained that in such cases proof is of paramount importance to suggest that the deceased took the step due to “direct encouragement or incitement of the accused and that the departed person was left with no other option."
Furthermore, the officer also asserted that investigative authorities also consider mental health of the deceased.
If Sushant is proven to be clinically depressed or diagnosed with any mental health issues, the verdict will go in favour of the accused.
Justice Hrishikesh Roy said the CBI will be competent to probe not only Patna FIR but any other FIR in connection with the case.
The top court noted that the Mumbai Police have registered only an accidental death report in connection with Rajput's death, therefore it have limited investigation powers, whereas the case registered by Bihar Police is a full-fledged FIR which has been already referred to CBI.
The top ensured that there was no confusion about CBI being sole authority to investigate the mystery behind Rajput's death and no other state police could interfere with it. The apex court order came on a plea by Rhea Chakraborty seeking transfer of FIR registered in Patna to Mumbai.
The apex court emphasized that the probe into the case has been ordered by the court and Maharashtra government must comply and assist.
The CBI is also free to register a fresh case, if required, added the top court.
With inputs from IANS