New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday gave its approval for a CBI probe into the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput on a recommendation by the Bihar government as the Supreme Court said the truth behind the death of a gifted and talented artiste under unusual circumstances must come out.
As the death of the 34-year-old actor in Mumbai on June 14 snowballed into a full-blown political row, the move for a CBI probe did not go down well with the ruling Shiv Sena-led coalition in Maharashtra whose NCP minister Nawab Malik raised jurisdictional issues on Bihar’s plea. But Bihar’s ruling JD(U) said the Centre’s nod will ensure justice to the dead actor and expose the dark underbelly of Bollywood.
Rajput was found hanging from the ceiling of his apartment in suburban Bandra in Mumbai. His death has set off an avalanche of speculation and several conspiracy theories.
The Nitish Kumar government’s recommendation for a CBI probe for an incident not under its jurisdiction amounts to encroachment of power of another state in the federal system, Malik said in Mumbai. The Maharashtra government which is opposed to a CBI probe has maintained that Mumbai police is competent to handle the investigation and the issue has been made a political case .
“A notification has been issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) paving the way for the CBI probe in Rajput’s death case,” a senior official said in Delhi.
A copy of the notification issued by the Centre has been sent to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) asking it to probe the case, the official said.
CBI officials in Delhi said the agency will take up the probe.
The Mumbai police has been probing the case keeping in mind various angles while the Bihar police also swung into action following a complaint by Krishna Kishore Singh, the 77-year-old father of Rajput, and a resident of Patna.
The Bihar police began its investigations into the abetment to suicide case and sent a team to Mumbai after it filed an FIR on July 28 amid a bitter turf war over who had the mandate of law to investigate the death.
The Bihar police registered a case against actor Rhea Chakraborty and five others, including three of her family members, under IPC sections 306 (abetment of suicide), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 380 (theft in dwelling house), 406 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating).
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court was apprised by the Centre that it has accepted the Bihar government’s recommendation for a CBI probe.
A very unfortunate incident has taken place. A gifted and talented artiste has passed away in circumstances which are unusual. Now, the circumstances in which this death took place needs to be inquired into, a bench headed by Justice Hrishikesh Roy said during the hearing held through video conferencing.
The court was hearing the plea of Chakraborty, 28, seeking transfer of the Bihar Police FIR.
It directed Rajput’s father, Bihar and Maharashtra governments to respond within three days to the plea.
The state of Maharashtra also should apprise the court on the status of investigations by the Mumbai Police by the next date, the court said, and listed the matter for next week. The Mumbai Police has said it has recorded the statements of 56 persons so far.
The court also took note of the action of authorities in Mumbai in putting a Bihar IPS officer who reached Mumbai for the probe in quarantine and said, The incident of quarantining a police officer (of Bihar) has not sent a good message.”
Mumbai Police has good professional reputation , the bench observed, adding, kindly ensure that everything is done in accordance with law.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said in principle, the authorities have decided to accept the request of the Bihar Police for a CBI probe.
The statement from the Centre came when senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and lawyer Keshav Mohan, appearing for the Bihar government, said the state police has already decided to entrust the investigation of the case registered in Rajeev Nagar Police Station, Patna to the CBI .
There must not be any obstruction by the Mumbai Police in the investigation and the FIR has been lawfully lodged by Patna police, Rohatgi said.
Maharashtra locked up the IPS officer and it appeared as if it was acting on the behalf of the actress, he alleged, adding there was no ground for any interim protection for Chakraborty.
During the hearing, senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Rajput’s father, said he has no difficulty if the apex court examines the case but no protective order should be passed in favour of Chakraborty.
Singh alleged that Maharashtra Police is destroying the evidence in the case and for the time being, they should be directed to cooperate with the Bihar Police in the ongoing probe.
Senior advocate R Basant, appearing for Maharashtra government, contended that Patna Police has no jurisdiction to either lodge an FIR or investigate the matter and this has been made a political case .
We are doing quite a professional job and it is inappropriate that Mumbai Police is being accused like this, he said.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Chakraborty, submitted that no coercive action be taken against her till the pendency of the matter.
We want all parties to hold their hands. Lawyers are here and I am sure they have all heard you”, the bench observed.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), meanwhile, has summoned Chakraborty for questioning on August 7 in connection with a money laundering case stemming from a complaint filed by Rajput’s father, officials said.
Chakraborty will be questioned and her statement will be recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they said.
The questioning is linked to a money laundering case that was registered by the ED last week on the basis of the Bihar Police FIR.
JD(U) spokesman Rajiv Ranjan Prasad said with the Centre accepting the Bihar government’s recommendation for a CBI inquiry the state can now hope that justice will be done in Rajput’s death.
“We are also hopeful that the investigation will expose before the world the ‘shadyantra ke khel’ (conspiratorial games) that are played in the ‘maya nagar’ (tinsel town),” he said in a statement in Patna.
Senior BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said the Maharashtra government should let the Mumbai Police work independently.
“I expect various angles of the case, including financial transactions, will be checked (by the CBI),” he said. .
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Home Minister Anil Deshmukh have been maintaining there is no need to hand over the case to the CBI despite the pressure mounting on them from various quarters.
BJP MP Narayan Rane on Tuesday even claimed that Rajput was murdered.
The former Maharashtra chief minister, who made the sensational claim at a media briefing, did not offer any evidence to back his allegation.
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