He may or may not have committed a crime. That the court will decide and, accordingly, punish or exonerate him. But for the past 22 years, Diptendra Roy Choudhury, a 48-year-old bank clerk, has been waiting for the CBI to gather evidence so that the case against him can take at least one step forward.
In these 22 years, Roy Choudhury has been dismissed from service, his wife and son have deserted him, and he has lost his “mental balance”. It is only his brother who has been looking after him, providing him with whatever he needs to fight the case.
Recently, the special CBI court, before which the case is pending, asked the investigating agency to stop all further gathering of evidence so that the hearings can commence in right earnest. It even stated that the CBI had been “indifferent” and “callous” in its handling of the case.
Roy Choudhury, frustrated at the delay that has ruined his life, has also approached Calcutta High Court, asking it to quash all charges that have been brought against him with a request that his job be restored and his dues given to him.
Justice S.B. Roy has admitted the case and asked the CBI to reply and clarify its stand on the issue.
Roy Choudhury used to work as a registration clerk in the current deposit section of a nationalised bank’s Southern Avenue branch. In May 1980, after working there for around six years, the bank authorities charged him with defalcating Rs 10 lakh. The case was handed over to the CBI and Roy Choudhury was dismissed from service.
The main charge levelled against Roy Choudhury was that while serving as a registration clerk at the bank, he had failed to enter the details of deposits in the registration book. That amount was, allegedly, removed from the bank by the clerk and his accomplices.
It was only when some companies started making inquiries about their deposits was it discovered that the amounts had not been credited to them. That was when the bank authorities followed the missing money trail and zeroed in on Roy Choudhury.
“After being evicted from my Bishop Lefroy Road home, I shifted to a slum because I had no money,” recounts Roy Choudhury. “Then, my wife and son also left me as the case just kept dragging on. They thought — and I don’t blame them for it — that the case would drag on for the rest of their lives.”
That was when Roy Choudhury lost his “mental balance”. Finally, his younger brother bailed him out and provided for his treatment. “He was losing his memory, but he is much better now,” says his lawyer, Rabi Shankar Chatterjee.
Now, there seems to be light at what has been a long, dark passage in time. The CBI, after conducting preliminary investigations, had told the court that it had gathered evidence, which included documents as well as witnesses. In all, the CBI said there would be 34 witnesses, as well as documents, to establish that Roy Choudhury was guilty.
But in the past two decades, all that the CBI has managed to do is place 12 evidences before the court — woefully short of what it had said it would provide to nail Roy Choudhury.
“If I am guilty, as the CBI says I am, then let them prove it,” says Roy Choudhury. “Half my lifetime has been spent waiting for the chargesheet to be framed against me and that still hasn’t happened.”
For most of these 22 years, at almost every hearing, the CBI counsel has been appearing in court, pleading for more time and being granted the same. It was only recently that judge Niranjan Ghosh of the special CBI court all but said “enough is enough” and directed the investigation agency to close the chapter on gathering of evidence and move towards a resolution.