Doctors accused in the suicide case of medico Payal Tadvi, being taken into police custody, in Mumbai on May 29, 2019. Three women doctors Bhakti Meher, Hema Ahuja and Ankita Khandelwal were arrested on Wednesday. (Photo: IANS)
Payal Salman Tadvi’s post-mortem report has revealed evidence of a ligature mark on her neck. Payal, a second-year medical student Dr Payal Tadvi at the BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai, committed suicide at the state-run hospital on May 22 after three of her seniors tormented her with alleged casteist slurs. She was a resident doctor who was pursuing gynaecology. Under “provisional cause of death”, the post-mortem report stated "evidence of ligature mark over neck."
All the three doctors --- Dr Bhakti Mehare , Dr Hema Ahuja and Dr Ankita Khandelwal have been arrested for abetting suicide and sent to two-day police custody as her family sought directions for the crime to be treated as a murder.
The anti-ragging committee of the TN Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai found that Dr Payal Tadvi faced “extreme harassment” from her three senior colleagues for several days before she took the extreme step. On the morning of May 22, she was admonished by the accused senior colleagues in the presence of other staff and patients. The second-year PG student was seen crying as she left. During the nine days between her husband filing a complaint with the gynaecology unit head of the college and her death, she faced “extreme harassment”, casteist remarks and was unfairly admonished several times. The seniors had come to know of the complaint, the report says as reported by The Wire.
The lawyer representing Payal Tadvi’s family told a Mumbai court that said that circumstances of the medical post-graduate student’s death suggested it was a murder case.
“From the circumstances of her death and bruise mark on her body, we can say that it must be a case of murder and not of suicide. Police must investigate this case in the lines of a murder investigation. Police should be given 14 days’ time for that,” Nitin Satpute, counsel representing the deceased’s family, said.
“The accused had taken her body to some other place and later it was brought to hospital so there is a suspicion of tampering with the evidence,” Satpute alleged in court. The matter was being heard before magistrate RM Sadrani of a Mumbai sessions court.
Seeking the maximum custody of 14 days, prosecutor Jay Singh Desai told the magistrate that the witnesses are under pressure.
“The accused are superior to almost every witness in the case. Witnesses are afraid of the accused to give their statement. This case may create social unrest if not investigated properly. The police have to retrieve WhatsApp communication from the phones of the accused,” Desai argued.
In defence, the lawyers representing the accused dismissed the charge of abetment of suicide and told the court that the three were not aware of Tadvi’s caste.
Responding to the request of treating the case as a murder, accused Bhakti Mehre’s counsel Sandip Bali said, “As the intervener claimed that this is a murder case, I will emphasise that let all medical reports come in.”
Mehre’s lawyer also contended that the abetment of suicide charge, saying that it is only based on the statement of Tadvi’s mother and is not supported by any other proof.
Advocate Abad Ponda, appearing for accused Hema Ahuja and Ankita Khandelwal, rubbished the claims that the deceased was harassed on the basis of her social identity. “Accused were not aware that the deceased got admission under any quota so they did not know her caste,” he argued.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the junior doctor who hailed from a tribal family in Jalgaon was frequently harassed by three female senior doctors over her caste. Payal would have been the first woman MD doctor from their community.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, the deceased's husband, Dr Salman Tadvi alleged that his wife may have been 'killed'. Demanding justice for his wife, Dr Salman, a doctor at the RN Cooper Hospital alleged that the hospital did not entertain the family's repeated pleas to change Payal's unit and failed to act even after her mother wrote a letter to the dean on May 13 of this year. Agripada Police later registered a complaint in this regard under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), SC/ST Atrocities Act, Anti-Ragging Act and Information Technology Act, 2000.
(With agency inputs)