All three accused in abetting the suicide of Mumbai doctor Payal Tadvi have been arrested by the state 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 (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Anti-Ragging Act, the IT Act and Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
A senior police official said, The three doctors are very well educated and moreover they belong to influential families. During the initial investigation in the case, they were available to make statements. However, when there was immense pressure from common people, the victim’s family and now politicians they realised that they will be arrested soon and therefore they escaped. We tried to get in touch with them but they were not available. In fact, the three doctors went to apply for anticipatory bail. However, just before that, all three were arrested.
The first arrest was made in the case of doctor Bhakti Mehare. She had reached court to file for bail but was arrested outside the court premises. Bhakti had reached the court wearing a burka so that she wouldn’t be identified. The second arrest in the case was Hema Ahuja who was caught from Andheri railway station area in the wee hours of Wednesday. The police had proper a tip-off that Hema was going to come at Andheri railway station area to meet someone when they laid a trap and arrested her. However, the police had difficulty in arresting the accused woman at night. She was taken to Sewri magistrate court then itself after which she was taken into custody. The third accused Ankita Khandelwal was arrested on Wednesday early morning by the police.
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.
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 (doctor of medicine) from their community.
Salman, a doctor himself, said it was possible that Tadav was “murdered” by the three women doctors.