In a shocking turn of events, all three accused in the institutional murder of Dr Payal Tadvi have been granted bail by the Bombay High Court. Hema Ahuja, Ankita Khandelwal and Bhakti Meher had been named by Dr Tadvi in her suicide note where she accused them of discrimination and harassment.
They were granted bail after Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakre told the court that they had no objection as the chargesheet in the case had already been filed. The trio will have to submit a surety of Rs 2 lakhs and appear before the crime branch every alternate day. They are also forbidden from leaving the city without the trial court’s permission.
Dr Payal Tadvi, who belonged to a Scheduled Tribe (ST), was pursuing postgraduate studies in gynecology at Mumbai’s prestigious BYL Nair Hospital. On May 22, 2019, she allegedly hanged herself in her hostel room after being allegedly driven to suicide due to harassment. According to friends and colleagues, the three senior doctors harassed Tadvi and used casteist slurs while addressing her and even mocked her on Whatsapp groups. Even after repeated complaints, the hospital administration allegedly failed to take action against the perpetrators. The accused allegedly destroyed the suicide note, but images were recovered from Dr Tadvi’s phone.
Her institutional murder sparked protests and the National Commission for women took suo motu cognisance of the case. A 21 member panel comprising members of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, college administration, and the police took statements of close to 30 people. These include doctors, professors, the unit in-charge, head of the department, nurses from the operation theatres, lab technician, and her roommates. Police arrested the women and they have been in judicial custody till today.
A trial court had rejected their bail plea on June 24. Now that the accused have secured bail from the high court, the accused have also been forbidden from entering Nair Hospital to prevent them from having the opportunity to tamper with evidence. The court also came down heavily on the prosecution for failing to record statements of six key witnesses including Dr Tadvi’s colleagues such as her roommate Snehal Shinde, and directed them to do so immediately.