The Mumbai sessions court, which is hearing the suicide case of former Tata Steel employee Charudatta Deshpande, once again deferred hearing the anticipatory bail plea of accused Prabhat Sharma to January 6 even as the name of another official cropped up in the matter.
The court was supposed to hear the bail application on Thursday. But Sharma’s counsel, Aabad Ponda, a prominent criminal lawyer, had sent in a request to judge R.M. Joshi a couple of days ago, seeking a fresh date as he was on leave.
“The next date of hearing is January 6 when Prabhat Sharma is expected to be present in court,” Prashant Deshpande, deputy superintendent of police, Vasai division, told The Telegraph.
He added that they had finished recording statements of Tata Steel officials and Charudatta’s family members.
Charudatta’s brother-in-law Mahesh Bhatkal deposed about who were involved in pushing the steel major’s former chief of corporate affairs and communications to suicide and named Partha Sengupta, vice-president (raw materials), Tata Steel, in that connection.
According to sources, Vrinda Walavalkar, a close friend of Charudatta, has also told police that he was subjected to undue pressure and intimidation during his stint in the company.
In her statement recorded by Vasai police on December 11 last year, Vrinda, a marketing professional and former journalist, said she had tried to discourage Charudatta from accepting the job at Tata Steel, as he was doing well in his previous company. But he was eager to work at the Jamshedpur-based steel firm, but his feelings changed soon after he joined, she told police.
Gurbir Singh, president of Press Club of Mumbai, who is closely monitoring the developments, told The Telegraph: “Vrinda was a very close friend of Charudatta and her deposition clearly shows the personal aspect and psychological damage Charu suffered because of harassment by a section of Tata Steel officials.”
He added that Charudatta shared a professional rapport with former editor of Forbes India Indrajit Gupta — who had filed a police complaint accusing Sharma of abetting his then boss’s suicide — and had told him the pressure and harassment he faced at Tata Steel.
“This is even evident in Indrajit’s 12-page complaint that he filed with Vasai police,” Singh said.
Sources further revealed that the probe team had also explored other angles like whether Charudatta took the extreme step due to financial reasons or had an extra-marital affair. But police failed to get any clue and hence, went back to the harassment angle.
Charudatta committed suicide at his Vasai home on June 28 over a month after he quit Tata Steel. Gupta filed the complaint on November 18, saying he 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.