The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Palmist bail triggers uproar

Burdwan, Feb. 12: The palmist who was arrested here yesterday on the charge of driving a college girl to suicide following dismal predictions about her life was released on bail by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate.

However, the magistrate has asked astrologer Subhendu Mukherjee to produce his credentials in court. The court granted bail to Mukherjee after the police failed to produce evidence needed to secure his remand. Mukherjee has been asked to appear in court again on February 25.

The Paschim Banga Vigyan Manch — the CPM-dominated rationalist forum — has called for a campaign in connection with the suicide of Sarmishtha Roy, who killed herself on February 10 last year after Mukherjee predicted that she would have a troubled marriage and would suffer from debilitating diseases.

Sarmishtha’s parents learnt about this when they discovered a diary, in which she had written about her meeting with the palmist and the reasons for taking her life.

The Trinamul Congress and the Congress have taken exception to the police allowing Mukherjee to be freed on bail, though he was booked under Section 306 of the IPC, which is non-bailable and pertains to abatement to commit suicide.

Trinamul Congress town committee secretary Arup Das and Congress leader Kashinath Ganguly said in a joint statement that both the parties would launch a campaign to protest against police leniency. “We give the police 48 hours to take proper steps or we will lay siege to the police station,” they said.

District judge R.N. Banerjee was asked at a private function today why the palmist was granted bail. “The matter is sub-judice. I will not comment,” he said.

Ironically, it was here last Monday that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said at the state conference of the science forum that more and more people were coming under the influence of those who preach about superstitions. “It is our misfortune that even our cricketers are going to play the World Cup wearing talismans and charms, there is a move to give official status to practices like astrology,” the chief minister had said.

Following the revelation of the cause behind Sarmishtha’s suicide, the forum’s district secretary, Sunil Sain, has threatened to launch a campaign against astrologers and palmists. “We have carried out similar campaigns in the past and we will do so now. We strongly protest the palmist’s actions and demand an exemplary punishment for him,” Sain added.

The police, however, are putting up a brave front on the astrologer securing bail. “Even if the person has got bail, we are determined to treat this case with priority and prepare a chargesheet to punish him,” deputy superintendent of police, headquarters, Ambika Mukherjee said.

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