CRIME

Agency of doom

54NeelkanthApartments Shadow of gloom: Neelkanth Apartments in East Delhi, where the Bansals used to live | Sanjay Ahlawat

The CBI could have averted the tragedy that befell the Bansals

  • The CBI has constituted an internal inquiry to probe the charges against its officials. The report is expected to be filed soon.

Jiski kismat kharab hoti hai, uske peeche CBI aati hai [The CBI goes after only those who are unlucky],” said former director-general of corporate affairs B.K. Bansal, after the CBI caught him allegedly accepting 09 lakh as bribe to scuttle a probe against a Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company, outside a hotel in Delhi on the evening of July 16.

Luck certainly wasn’t on his side then. Earlier that day, Bansal had gone to a Shani temple in the city. On his way out, he fell and hurt his arm. Nevertheless, he proceeded to the hotel, not knowing that the CBI sleuths were lying in wait. The photographs of Bansal’s arrest show his right hand in a sling.

It was downhill all the way since. On July 19, Bansal’s wife, Satyabala, 58, and daughter Neha, 28, killed themselves at their flat in East Delhi. Apparently, they could not bear the stigma of his arrest and the subsequent searches by the CBI at their house. Two months later, Bansal and his son Yogesh, 25, were found hanging from ceiling fans in separate rooms in the same apartment.

Four deaths, but no case registered still. Could the tragedy have been averted? Maybe, had the CBI taken adequate measures. If the case files are to be believed, the lives of Bansal and Yogesh, at least, could have been saved.

After Bansal’s wife and daughter killed themselves, the CBI quietly approached the court on the evening of July 19. As the judge hearing the case was not available, Bansal was produced before another judge, Bharat Parashar. The CBI requested the judge to send him in judicial custody to Tihar Jail, as he was not in a condition to answer questions. The judge was told in private that Bansal had not been informed about the deaths in his family.

Bansal told the court that he had been pleading with the CBI to allow him to call his family. Investigation officer Shitanshu Sharma told the judge that Bansal had been allowed to speak to his daughter the day before. The court had a serious situation on hand. The accused had no lawyer to represent him, as it was not a scheduled hearing. Sharma told the judge that the CBI had not been able to contact any of his lawyers or relatives. After repeated inquiries from the court, Bansal produced the visiting card of a lawyer who had represented him in an earlier hearing. The lawyer was requested to reach the court.

It was then that the court told Bansal that an unfortunate incident had happened, and that he could get in touch with his relatives if he so wished. Bansal provided the phone numbers of his relatives. After repeated efforts, Sharma got hold of a relative who informed Bansal that his wife and daughter had killed themselves. “Seeing the precarious situation and the condition of the accused, he was offered water as well as tea and biscuits in the court itself,” the judge noted.

At 5.30pm, well after the court hours, the lawyer who was summoned, Umakant Kataria, appeared. He said he had appeared on behalf of the accused in the morning, as he was the only “remand advocate” of the court concerned. In the meantime, Shitanshu Sharma was asked to call for his senior officers. Anish Prasad, superintendent of police in the CBI, appeared before the court and was asked about the circumstances in which he came to know of the tragedy and the course of action he adopted.

Minutes later, deputy inspector-general Sanjeev Gautam, too, reached the court. “Gautam was inquired as to the reasons for moving an application to simply get the accused transferred to Tihar Jail instead of taking necessary steps in dealing with the situation in a humanitarian way,” observed Parashar in his order rejecting the CBI plea to send Bansal to Tihar.

Saying that “it will not be appropriate to send the accused to judicial custody at this stage”, Parashar directed Prasad to take Bansal to his house. He also asked the superintendent to personally supervise the conduct of the investigating officer and submit a report.

Despite all this, the CBI failed to sense the warning signals that all was not well with Bansal and Yogesh. Documents accessed by THE WEEK reveal that Bansal was on medication when he was sent to CBI custody on July 16. According to medical records, his condition grew worse after the death of his wife and daughter, and Yogesh went into depression. The emergency department at Safdarjung Hospital advised that Bansal be referred to “the psychiatry out-patient department for depression and post-traumatic stress”.

The court granted him interim bail till August 3, which was later extended to August 22. He surrendered on August 23. On August 30, while reviewing his bail petition, the special judge hearing the case, Gurdeep Singh, noted in his order that Bansal had become a heart patient and his son had gone into depression. Medical records submitted to the court established that Yogesh was suffering from depression with symptoms of “loss of sleep, loss of appetite and lack of interest in work” and that he had developed “suicidal tendencies”.

The CBI, however, continued to contest Bansal’s bail plea. It argued that “the office of the accused is yet to be examined, intercepted calls are yet to be identified and the accused, being an influential person and an officer of high rank, can influence witnesses and tamper with evidence.”

The judge set aside the arguments and granted bail to Bansal. But the damage had been done. The father and son killed themselves on September 27, leaving behind a suicide note that named CBI officials who had allegedly “tortured and mentally harassed” his family.

It appears that the criminal justice system failed the Bansals. The Delhi Police appears to have washed its hands of the matter by handing over the suicide note to the CBI itself. Apparently, the deputy inspector-general named in the suicide note continues to supervise the case against Bansal.

The CBI has constituted an internal, joint director-level inquiry to probe the charges levelled against its officials. The inquiry report is expected to be filed soon. “The CBI is fully committed to conduct the investigation in a fair and professional manner without harassment to anyone and strictly within the parameters of law,” said CBI spokesperson R.K. Gaur. “If any violation is established during the probe, strict action will be taken against the officials concerned. The competent court will be informed.”

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Topics : #CBI

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