All three accused in abetting the suicide of Mumbai doctor Payal Tadvi have been arrested by the Mumbai police. The trio were senior doctors at Nair Hospital in Mumbai’s Agripada.
Early Wednesday morning, the Agripada police arrested Ankita Khandelwal. Previously the police had arrested Hema Ahuja on Tuesday night and Bhakti Mehere on Tuesday afternoon.
The trio is accused of harassing and using casteist slurs against their junior Payal Tadvi which drove the latter to commit suicide. They had been on the run since May 22, when Payal had committed suicide.
All three moved an anticipatory bail application before the sessions court in Mumbai on Tuesday and it is likely to come up for hearing on Wednesday.
The trio has been booked under relevant provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Act, the Anti-Ragging Act, the IT Act and Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code.
Payal Tadvi hanged herself last Wednesday, following which the 26-year-old’s family alleged that the senior doctors tortured her by ragging and hurling casteist abuses as she belonged to a Scheduled Tribe.
Tadvi’s parents protested at the state-run hospital in Mumbai where she worked. Other protesters also joined Payal Tadvi’s mother Abeda and husband Salman, demanding stringent action against the three seniors.
The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, and other Dalit and tribal organisations held protests outside the BYL Nair Hospital.
Abeda asked whether the government would take responsibility for the safety of students like her daughter, who are pursuing higher education.
“Payal used to tell me about the torture which she was facing by her seniors on petty issues. They threw files on her face in front of patients,” she said.
“Payal used to tell me not to give a written complaint against her seniors despite being harassed by them. She would say that doing so would adversely impact their career,” Abeda said.
She said Payal Tadvi would have been the first woman MD from their community.
Salman, a doctor himself, said it was possible that Tadav was “murdered” by the three women doctors.
Expressing solidarity with the protesters and with Payal Tadvi’s family, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad said he would visit Maharashtra if needed to “fight for justice for our younger sister”.
The state women’s commission has also taken cognisance of the matter and issued a notice to the hospital authorities.
On Tuesday, it wrote a letter to the Mumbai police commissioner, seeking a thorough investigation in the case.
The panel, which termed the case “very serious”, has sought a report from the police within eight days, an official said.
It said there was a need to take stringent action against the accused under sections of abetment to suicide, the SC/ST Act and Anti-Ragging Act, the official said.
In a related development, the anti-ragging committee of Nair Hospital submitted its report in Tadvi’s suicide case to the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences.
“We have submitted our sealed report to the MUHS,” said Ramesh Bharmal, Dean, Nair Hospital, who did not reveal any details of the report, saying it was confidential.
“We are cooperating with the police in their investigation and providing whatever help they want,” Bharmal told PTI.
According to the official sources, In the morning, Minister for Medical Education Girish Mahajan visited the hospital and also met the protesters and parents of the victim.
The Mumbai Congress demanded that all the three doctors booked in the case be tried in a fast-track court.
A delegation led by of Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora met Joint CP (Law and Order) Vinay kumar Chaube and made the demand.
In a statement, the Mumbai Congress said Tadvi’s suicide was unfortunate and a serious issue.
“The Tadvi family should get justice. The three doctors should be punished severely. A message should go out in Mumbai and Maharashtra that there is no place for casteism in educational institutions,” it said.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said those accused of abetting Tadvi’s suicide should be booked under IPC section 302.
She demanded that Mahajan take a review of all anti- ragging committees in education institutions in the state.
Gorhe said the issue would be raised in the state legislature session starting from June 17.
The three accused had on Monday sought a “fair probe” in the case.
In a letter to the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, the accused said they wanted the college to conduct a fair investigation in the matter and “give justice” to them.
“This is not the way to do an investigation through police force and media pressure, without hearing our side,” the three doctors said in the letter.
The MARD has suspended the three doctors.
“We have credible inputs that the three doctors made casteist remarks against Dr Payal Tadvi, who allegedly committed suicide. We will cooperate with the police for the further investigation,” a senior MARD official said.