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Cops keen on Sharma custody

Mumbai police are likely to seek custody of Jamshedpur-based senior Tata Steel official Prabhat Sharma when he appears at the sessions court in the Maharashtra capital on Wednesday for a hearing of his anticipatory bail plea in the Charudatta Deshpande suicide case.

Sharma, who was shifted from the corporate affairs and communications department to corporate services on Monday, faces an FIR for allegedly abetting the suicide of Charudatta, who as the former chief of corporate affairs and communications of Tata Steel was his boss.

Sharma filed the bail plea on November 26.

“During the course of investigations, we found out that Charudatta was forced to sign some documents as Tata Steel’s chief of corporate affairs and communications prior to his death. Sharma, who was his deputy then, was aware of this. We want to seize those documents for which we need his custodial interrogation,” said a Thane police officer who is a member of the team investigating the case.

The five-member police team, which had come to the steel city on Saturday, left on Monday after interrogating 20 Tata Steel officials, including Sharma and former vice-president (corporate services) Sanjiv Paul.

Sharma was quizzed for about an hour on Monday.

“Our main objective was to collect evidence against the Tata official named in the FIR. We will present our case before the sessions court tomorrow (Wednesday),” investigating officer-cum-DSP (Vasai division) Prashant Deshpande said.

Company sources said Sharma left for Mumbai Tuesday afternoon.

The Mumbai sessions court, which had taken up Sharma’s bail plea on December 4, deferred the hearing to Wednesday as the investigating officer sought more time to complete the probe. Besides, Sharma was also not present in court that day.

Charudatta (57) committed suicide at his Vasai home in Mumbai on June 28, 2013, over a month after he quit Tata Steel.

Veteran journalist and former editor of Forbes India Indrajit Gupta lodged a complaint with Thane police on November 18, saying that the former PR man was driven to suicide due to harassment, mental torture and humiliation by Sharma. This happened after a critical article on the challenges facing Tata Steel appeared in Forbes India in April. A section of the Tata management allegedly blamed Charudatta for it.

Acting on the complaint, Thane police booked Sharma under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the IPC.

The Press Club of Mumbai has opposed Sharma’s anticipatory bail plea. “We sent a letter to Mukund Rajan, the group’s chief of ethics, Tuesday evening for releasing the company’s internal probe report. Earlier, we had written to the Tata Steel board,” Press Club of Mumbai’s president Gurbir Singh said over phone.

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