Sushant Singh’s death case: From nepotism debate to Maharashtra-Bihar turf war

A look at twists and turns in the case

sushant-singh-rajput-pti (File) Sushant Singh Rajput | PTI

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely demise has led to a series of events, with his death opening up a can of worms in the Hindi film industry. The young actor’s death that reignited debates about nepotism and favouritism in Bollywood has also taken a political turn.

Here’s a look at the twists and turns since the actor’s death:

1.   June 14:  Sushant Singh, 34, was found dead in his Mumbai apartment. Though a suicide note was not recovered, Mumbai Police confirmed it was death by suicide.

2.  June 15: Sushant’s last rites performed at the Pawan Hans crematorium in Mumbai in the presence of his father and sisters who arrived from his hometown Patna, and few of his colleagues from Bollywood.

3.  Soon after his death, social media users targeted Bollywood celebs like Alia Bhatt and Karan Johar, holding them responsible for nepotism in the industry, which allegedly pushed Sushant to take the extreme step.  Sushant's cousin Neeraj Bablu who is also a BJP MLA from Bihar, alleged that the family believes there is a "conspiracy" .

4.  June 17: A lawyer moves a criminal complaint against 8 persons, including Salman Khan, Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, in a Muzaffarpur court. In his complaint filed in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, advocate Sudhir Kumar Ojha alleged that these eight persons forced Sushant to commit suicide under a conspiracy which, he pleaded amounted to murder. The petition was dismissed later.

5.  Meanwhile, the Mumbai Police announced that it will probe the angle of ‘professional rivalry’ in Sushant Singh’s death.

6.  June 18: Actress Kangana Ranaut, who has always been a vocal critic of nepotism, shared a video in which she called out ‘Bollywood’s privilege club’. In the video, she questioned if his death was indeed suicide or 'planned murder' by an industry that does not acknowledge outsiders. Kangana said that she knew the actor was 'anxious about work'.

7.   The nepotism debate catches on, with mud-slinging on social media. Many filmmakers and actors including Abhinav Kashyap, Shekhar Kapur, Raveena Tandon, and more speak out against the mafia in Bollywood. Singer Sonu Nigam, also opens up about the ‘mafia’ in the music industry and says that ‘today it is Sushant, tomorrow it could be a singer’.

8.  Mumbai Police record statements of family members, friends, his rumoured girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty.

9.  June 20: Yash Raj Films (YRF) submitted copies of the contract signed by Sushant Singh for their upcoming projects to the Mumbai Police.  His third film with the banner was supposed to be "Paani", directed by Shekhar Kapur. However, YRF had reportedly backed out of the project.

10.  June 24: Amid growing clamour for CBI probe, final postmortem report ruled out any foul play in the death. The report revealed that the actor died by "asphyxia due to hanging”, and that there was no signs of struggle or external injuries on his body.

11.  June 30: Mumbai Police records statement of Sanjana Sanghi, Sushant's co-star in his final film, Dil Bechara.

12.  July 6: Mumbai Police records statement of filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Rajput was approached for as many as four films including Goliyon Ki Rasleela: Ram-Leela  (2013), Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018), Bhansali informed the cops.

13.  July 16: Sushant’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty appeals to Union Home Minister Amit Shah for CBI probe.  “I only want to understand what pressures prompted Sushant to take this step,” she wrote in an Instagram post.

14.  July 17: Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh ruled out CBI probe into Sushant Singh’s death. Deshmukh said that Mumbai Police is capable enough to handle the case.

15.  July 18: Mumbai Police records statement of Aditya Chopra, who was reportedly interrogated for over four hours.

16.  July 25: Patna Police registers FIR against Rhea Chakraborty and others for alleged abetment of suicide, based on complaint filed by Sushant’s father K.K. Singh. The Bihar police case was registered under various IPC sections including 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 380 (theft in dwelling house), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 306 (abetment of suicide).

17.   July 27: Mumbai Police records statement of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt.

18.   July 28: Mumbai Police records statement of Apoorva Mehta, CEO of Dharma Productions.

19.  July 30: BJP MP Subramanian Swamy writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking a comprehensive probe, including by the CBI.

20: July 31: The Enforcement Directorate registers case over "suspicious transactions" worth Rs 15 crore in connection with the death of Sushant

21: August 4: Bihar government recommends CBI probe 

Two states clash

On July 30, Sushant’s father K.K. Singh filed a caveat in the Supreme Court after Rhea moved the apex court to transfer the Patna FIR to Mumbai. A day after Singh filed the caveat, the Bihar government came out in support of the family and hired former attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to challenge Rhea in the apex court. Over the course of the next few days, Bihar police launched a parallel probe into the case, and a team arrived in Mumbai, and also looked into Sushant’s accounts and financial dealings.

On August 3, Vinay Tiwari, the IPS officer from Patna who was in Mumbai to probe the case, was "forcibly quarantined" by civic authorities in the metropolis. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar blasted the incident and said that it was not right. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) countered the accusations, saying that the officer was quarantined as per the present guidelines for domestic arrivals at Mumbai airport.

The case had devolved into a turf war between police of two states with Maharashtra Minister of State for Home Shambhuraj Desai saying that the Bihar police team in Mumbai did not follow established protocols. On August 3, Sushant’s father said that Mumbai Police was warned about threat to the actor's life way back in February, but they failed to take note of it and also did not act upon complaints against named persons a day after his death in June.

In a major turn of events in the case, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recommended CBI probe on August 4. With assembly polls approaching, the case has taken a political turn in Bihar with the opposition and ruling allies both demanding a CBI probe and Nitish Kumar facing criticism for not taking proactive steps earlier. Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan also spoke to Nitish Kumar, and pushed for CBI probe. He had earlier written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Sushant’s cousin and BJP MLA Neeraj Bablu had also called for CBI probe in the state assembly on Monday. He received support from opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav, who has been blaming the chief minister for not actively pursuing Sushant’s case.  

The Supreme Court is set to hear Rhea’s plea on August 5.