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Court seeks Sharma presence on Dec. 21

A Mumbai court has asked Tata Steel’s Prabhat Sharma, an accused in the Charudatta Deshpande suicide case, to appear before it on December 21, rejecting his appeal for personal exemption during hearings on his anticipatory bail plea.

The court has also asked police not to arrest him till such time.

Sharma, who did not appear in the sessions court of R.M. Joshi on Wednesday, moved the exemption appeal through his lawyer Aabad Ponda.

According to sources, Ponda, a prominent criminal lawyer, argued that there was no need to take Sharma into custody as he was co-operating with Mumbai police in their investigations into the suicide of Charudatta, the former chief of corporate affairs and communications of Tata Steel.

But public prosecutor S. Moholkar objected to Sharma’s request and stressed for his custodial interrogation.

“The court dismissed Sharma’s application, seeking exemption from personal presence. He was asked to be physically present when the court takes up the case on December 21,” investigating officer-cum-DSP (Vasai division), Mumbai, Prashant Deshpande, who was present in the court, said.

Ponda declined to divulge much. “The anticipatory bail petition of my client stands. The next hearing is on December 21,” he said.

Sharma, who had filed the anticipatory bail plea on November 26 after being booked for abetment to suicide by Thane police, had skipped an earlier hearing on December 4. The court had then deferred the matter to Wednesday.

Thane police are keen on Sharma’s custody as they have found during investigations that Charudatta was forced to sign some documents during his stint at Tata Steel prior to his death. Sharma, who was his deputy then, was aware of this. Police now want to seize those documents for which they need Sharma’s custodial interrogation.

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

Sharma has been shifted from the corporate affairs and communications department to corporate services.

Tata Steel on Wednesday replied to the letter sent by the Press Club of Mumbai on Tuesday. Chanakya Chaudhary, group director of corporate communication and regulatory affairs, Tata Steel, New Delhi, wrote: “The recommendations of the committee are being actioned upon appropriately by the company. In the mean while, Tata Steel has been fully and openly cooperating with the investigations being carried out by Mumbai police and will continue to assist the legal process.”

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