On May 22, 26-year-old Dr Payal Tadvi, a student of the TN Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai, allegedly died by suicide in her hostel room. According to the FIR, Tadvi was admonished by the accused seniors. She was living in the Resident Medical Officer quarters inside BYL Nair Hospital. Later, she was found hanging in her hostel room after a call from her mother. The anti-ragging committee of the college confirmed that she faced “extreme harassment” from the senior colleagues for several days before she took her life.
The Crime Branch has also produced a statement from her friend who apparently witnessed casteist comments being directed at her.
The accused trio were earlier produced in court on May 28 after the arrest which eventually sent them to two days police custody remand. The case was transferred to Mumbai crime branch on Thursday. The seniors have been booked under provisions from Schedule Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Anti-Ragging Act, IT Act and Section 306. The three accused have been sent to judicial custody till June 10.
The case is getting more and more complicated with new angles to the story which have reduced it to a tabloid. The accused have been pointing fingers to the fact that Payal did not live with her husband and thus interrogation should be made into her marital relations. Her husband defends the claim saying that he understood the tough campus life that Payal used to live and it was difficult for them to live together due to work commitments but they met almost every two days. He further adds that this accusation is only a mechanism applied to deflect attention from the fact that his wife was harassed in the workplace.
Defence lawyer Aabad Ponda argued that nobody knew about the deceased’s caste in the college campus so allegations regarding caste are baseless. He added that “custodial interrogation is not required. Since last nine days probe is on, the group chat has been produced. Only because the crime branch got files last night ,it cannot be a ground for custodial interrogation.”
He further argues, “where did this suicide note come from, it was not there. Thank God they have given up the allegations of murder made last hearing. There is now way one could get hold of the suicide note and then destroy it. I cannot change entry of a in word register even if I am lodged in jail . We understand who has got this case transferred. Someone very influential is doing this.” said Ponda.
An AIIMS group for social justice held a meeting to condone the suicide which they link to ‘institutional murder’ and connect the case with the suicide of Rohit Vemula. “Originally we wanted to hold the meeting on 13 May, but the administration opposed it. They didn’t give us permission and imposed restrictions. For example, they said if we wanted to put out a press release we would first have to seek permission from the director’s office,” said Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, a senior resident at AIIMS and member of the Forum for Social Consciousness, in a conversation with The Print. Doctors at AIIMS also organised a meeting on Saturday to deliberate on the issue of caste discrimination in institutions of higher education.
Post the death, the Indian Medical Association has formed a five-member fact-finding committee to look at the larger issues concerning the resident doctors working in the State’s public hospitals. In a press statement, the IMA has stated that the poor working conditions of doctors, in particular, the residents in government hospitals, the abnormal load of work they are expected to carry as a matter of routine and the ever-present ridicule for deficiency of clinical skills cannot be pushed under the carpet.“IMA’s fact-finding team will study comprehensively the complex issue and is expected to submit its report to IMA national president in a week’s time,” it stated.