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Piyali’s point of view

Piyali Das Mondal’s version of the case, narrated by her family and friends

From the moment she first came to know why she had been arrested, Dr Piyali Das Mondal has said that she had never set eyes on Dr Sushil Pal.

She had read of the death of Pal in the newspaper, and had no inkling of the kind of trouble that was brewing when she came to know from a television programme (Khoj Khabar) on July 24 or 25, 2004, that the CID had seized her attendance register from Bally Kedarnath Arogya Bhaban, where she had been working as permanent medical officer (gynaecologist).

Das Mondal’s daughter was born on September 25, 2004, and on October 7, police seized all her medical papers, prescriptions, reports and USG plates of the newborn from her parents’ home, where she was then staying. On October 11, the police brought a warrant and took her and her 17-day-old child, who was suffering from neonatal jaundice, into custody. No one asked her any questions or interrogated anyone in the family.

Mother and child were medically examined at the SSKM Hospital and then made to wait in the Howrah police lockup nearly the whole day. In her words, “No one told me why I was being kept there and what was happening with me. On my repeated enquiry, they only told me that I would have to wait there till further orders from superior officers.”

When she was finally taken out, she faced hundreds of cameras, although she still did not know she was being taken to prison. Since nothing had been said at all, the girl who helped look after the baby actually accompanied her right into the gates of the jail before the two women realised what was happening.

The baby developed acute respiratory distress that night, and was taken with her mother to Chittaranjan Sishu Sadan on October 13.

Meanwhile, between October 12 and December 20, six bail petitions were filed on her behalf, all of which were rejected. But as the baby was grievously ill, and had to be examined in the interim, a medical board was ordered by the court on December 20.

Das Mondal was also asked to record her statement before the magistrate, about which she, at that point of time, knew nothing. She went before the magistrate with the baby and said she did not know Dr Sushil Pal.

However, since the medical board found the baby “at risk of any kind of complications which may endanger the life of the baby”, interim bail was granted for a month, which was later gradually extended on the same grounds. But Das Mondal was legally prohibited to enter Howrah, where she used to work, except to attend court, on the ground that she would influence witnesses. That has been the situation for the past nine and a half years.

In her words: “I, being a doctor, cannot carry out my profession properly, neither did I get my service back. It has damaged me professionally, financially, socially and mentally.”