ACCEDING to requests, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil on Thursday transferred the probe into Charudutta Deshpande’s suicide to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Both the family members of Charu as well as the Press Club Mumbai had earlier given separate letters to the Home Minister stating that the investigation into charges of abetment against Tata Steel officers had run aground and were deliberately not being pursued by the Thane Rural Police.
Charu Deshpande, a former journalist and a PR executive with Tata Steel had committed suicide on 28 June 2013 and an FIR had been lodged at the Vasai Police Station by former Forbes Magazine editor charging Prabhat Sharma, deputy corporate communications manager at Tata Steel, and others, with abetment of suicide under Sec 306 of the IPC.
A special commemoration meeting held at the Press Club Mumbai on 28 June, the first death anniversary of Charu, petitioned the Home Minister to transfer the case to a neutral investigative agency, so that the accused persons were speedily charged and prosecuted. A letter signed by over 40 senior journalists at the function was also handed over to the Mr R R Patil.
In a series of interactions between a Press Club delegation and the Home Minister over Wednesday and Thursday, it was pointed out to the latter that the Thane Rural Police had failed to take Prabhat Sharma, prime accused, into custody for interrogation, despite the Vasai Sessions Court in January this year indicating there was enough prima facie evidence to reject Sharma’s anticipatory bail application. Ultimately, Prabhat Sharma withdrew his bail application on assurances by the police that they would not arrest him, the Home Minister was told.
The fact that the Thane Police were neither aware of the internal inquiry of Tata Steel into the death of Charu nor did they make attempts to access it after being told of the report’s existence, pointed to the shoddy police investigation. The Police was also not aware that the Tata Steel had taken action against two officials – the company’s Vice President Partha Sengupta was asked to go, while Prabhat Sharma had been transferred from the sensitive corporate communications department to general administration. Despite earlier commitments, Tata Steel has not yet made the findings of its internal inquiry public.
The Press Club also presented the Home Minister with the Provisional findings of the Psychological Autopsy conducted by well-known psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty that proved that it was not clinical or others forms of depression, but months of harassment and mental torture that led Charu to take his own life. The conclusion of the report said: “Charudatta Deshpande did not suffer from Depression or any serious mental illness before his demise. He appeared to be troubled by stressors from his last employment and felt threatened weeks and months before his death.”
In a separate and recent development, the Tata Steel board has made an offer of monetary compensation to Charu’s wife, Mrs Nivedita Deshpande, and the members of the family are considering the offer.