While Mumbai police played up the nepotism slant, ED and Bihar police are highlighting the economic dimensions of the case.

 

New Delhi: The mystery shrouding the circumstances leading to the unnatural death of the upcoming Bollywood star, Sushant Singh Rajput, is growing murkier by the day, primarily due to the shoddy and slipshod investigation by the Mumbai police. Equally baffling is the insistence of the Patna police, which registered a First Information Report, on the complaint of the deceased’s father, K.K. Singh, and believes that it can teach a lesson or two in policing to its counterparts in Maharashtra. The perplexing third dimension in this matter has been introduced with a verbal request from the Bihar Chief Minister to the Central government, which has decided to bring the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the picture. In fact, those who have been demanding a CBI probe, could be in for a major disappointment, as the premier agency has mostly fallen short of expectations, and the case may now go into a black-hole, with very sparse information likely to emerge regarding its progress. To begin with, the CBI has registered a case of abetment to suicide against the deceased’s erstwhile companion, Rhea Chakraborty, thus ruling out murder, much to the despondency of a large number of the late actor’s admirers, who continue to be convinced that he was done to death, and in no way could take his own life. Rhea’s lawyers have challenged the CBI intervention and maintain that since the case was in the Apex Court, the jurisdiction issue remained to be resolved, thereby questioning the very basis of the case being transferred to the CBI by the Centre.

All this has occurred because the Mumbai police, known for its professionalism, for reasons best known to it, floundered at the very outset. For days together, it continued its inquiry under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code, giving the impression that it was going into fine-combed details of how thriving nepotism flourished in the film industry. All this while, the shattered family of Sushant Singh Rajput was bewildered why the probe had deviated from the right track and instead was ignoring the sequence of events leading to the young actor’s tragic death.

A number of questions have been raised on whether Sushant actually committed suicide or was murdered at the behest of a powerful cabal, who wanted to conceal information related to the equally mysterious demise, a few days earlier, of Disha Salian, an upcoming starlet and an associate of the actor. The talk in tinsel town was that Sushant was aware of the truth behind her sudden death, and a segment of people feared that he would go public, unless he was silenced. Disha apparently had jumped from her flat in a multi-storeyed apartment complex, and the Bihar police team, which flew down to Mumbai to conduct its own investigations, claimed that the Mumbai police “accidentally” had deleted her digital records. This itself was terribly unconvincing, since the probe into unnatural deaths is conducted manually; and supposing the digital record had been erased, it could readily be reconstructed. Therefore, the Mumbai police, while investigating the case, must rule out any theories, however far-fetched they may seemingly appear, in order to reach to a correct inference, supported both by law and forensic findings. In this context, the role of Rhea Chakraborty, the star’s girlfriend, must also be thoroughly looked into, and if there is evidence showing her complicity, she too, must be booked under the relevant sections of law. Concurrently, the Bollywood Moguls, who patronised her, should also be definitely and decisively investigated.

The first and foremost point of contention pertains to whether Sushant killed himself or did someone else do him away with, to cover up some other nefarious crime? Normally, the autopsy report should make things sufficiently clear, but in this case, it is evident that the failure of the Mumbai police to effectively communicate the report has led to these confounding questions. There should be a public disclosure on whether the autopsy was video-graphed and if those who performed it went through all possible angles. Forensic doctors know their job and must have done what was required, but their findings need to be shared, given that it is a high-profile case, which has several complex semantics involved.

According to medical experts, the most elementary feature in a case of hanging is the nature of the ligature mark; if a person hangs himself, the ligature botch bears an oval shape, and there are no scars at the back of the neck. In addition, the spine exhibits signs of deformity, both in the upper portion and the lower part of the torso, due to the impactful stress caused by the dangling. The protrusion of the tongue and the condition of the eyelids also play a telling role in ascertaining an unnatural death. In a case of suicide, the blood circulation, for a short span continues, with ultimately the blood coagulating both at the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet. In the case of murder by hanging, there would be no such indicative signs on the soles and hands and the probable deformities to the spine, if any, may be of a different nature. In addition, the ligature mark would be structurally circular.

There have been reports in the media, though unsubstantiated by the police, that there were bruises on Sushant’s body. Aberrations on the body can only come about when a person is alive and are treated by the forensics as ante-mortem wounds, which might suggest foul play, unless absolutely ruled out. The other angles, such as the height of the ceiling from the bed and the kind of cloth or rope used as a noose, are other factors that could facilitate at arriving to a plausible conclusion. The post-mortem would have also provided the near-approximate time of death. What further needs to be ascertained are the statements of those who were present at Rajput’s apartment, when he allegedly breathed his last, and those with whom he communicated till his very end. These are key aspects to the trajectory of the investigations and these disclosures need to be corroborated by circumstantial evidence. There have been reports that suggest that Sushant was completely unnerved, since he had come to know the “truth” behind Disha Salian’s gory ending. According to these accounts, Disha had been gang raped by a group of men, including the son of a prominent Maharashtra leader, as well as the brother of a long-standing mega star. She was then allegedly flung from the building to destroy any evidence of this monstrous act.

This theory may sound improbable yet requires to be closely scrutinised so as to eliminate any suspicious element. It is mandatory that a young woman’s post-mortem must examine the possibility of rape. Secondly, the distance of the body from the building from which she had fallen would indicate whether she jumped out voluntarily or was hurled out by a third party. Usually speaking, whenever somebody leaps to death, the body is closer to the bottom of the building; however, if a person is tossed out, it requires more than one individual to physically perform this act, and the body travels in a semi-projectile motion, thereby landing at a reasonable distance from the base of the building. These elementary steps must have been carried by the Mumbai police and thus they should clarify the exact position.

In fact, the Mumbai police should have done all this and much more, thus preventing doubts over their investigation. If Sushant indeed had committed suicide, the police should have figured out whether any person, such as Rhea Chakraborty, could be held liable for abetment. An abetment is the most difficult thing to establish yet if the probe is conducted meticulously, there is little left to say.

An equally curious aspect of the case is the haste with which the Enforcement Directorate leaped into the investigation. Normally the ED is brought into the picture, if there is money-laundering of colossal amounts. In this instance, it seems that money belonging to Sushant may have been siphoned off by his girlfriend, apparently with his consent, but was washed and pressed off as well.

The police, more than the ED, must go through the credentials of Rhea and her connections with Bollywood honchos. Was she, in any manner, also connected with the kingpins of the underworld, who are well-known to finance films in Mumbai and other places? Her photographs reveal that she enjoyed more than congenial relations with some top directors, whose conduct, in the present case, also requires to be checked out.

Finally, by bringing in the CBI to probe this matter, the Centre may have to some degree overstepped. This action could be viewed as an attempt to impose its will on a state that had not accorded its consent to a CBI investigation. Obviously, subsequently this may be challenged in a court of law. However, this could also set a precedent for the future, where any government at the Centre could step in by getting a case registered in another state to enable it to take over investigation of any such incidents.

The curious aspect of the case is that while the Mumbai police played up the nepotism slant during its ongoing inquiry, the ED and the Bihar police are engaged in highlighting the economic dimensions of the scenario. Unfortunately, the field-space which should be attached to the probe concerning the demise of the soaring star is prominently absent, appearing more as a footnote.

Sushant Singh Rajput was, undoubtedly, an extremely talented actor, whose boyish looks and abundant energy, made many to liken him with the young Dev Anand. The truth behind his tragic death must come to light and his ending should not be “marketed” by Bihar politicians to enhance their prospects in the Assembly elections that are due in the state or by the Centre to knock down an elected opposition government in Maharashtra. His family is in dire need of justice for them to put a painfully final concluding closure.