The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday filed a case into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput naming his ex-girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, her brother Showik Chakraborty and four other family members or known associates apart from unknown persons as accused, officials said.
The Mumbai police have been probing the death since Rajput’s body was found at his apartment on June 14 but are yet to register a case.
The case was handed over to CBI by the Bihar government after Rajputs father KK Singh and the Bihar police alleged a cover-up by the Mumbai police. They have accused the Mumbai police of destroying evidence and deliberately ignoring leads in the case in an attempt to derail it. The Maharashtra police have questioned the jurisdiction of the Bihar police in the matter. A final call on this matter — whether Bihar police have the jurisdiction to transfer a case to CBI — will be taken by the Supreme Court later this week . One school of thought is that it has — because Rajput’s father is based in the state. Another is that it doesn’t — that while it can register a case, it has to transfer it to Mumbai police.
CBI has handed over the investigation to its Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is currently investigating the high-profile AgustaWestland chopper case and the bank fraud case against fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya.
The SIT, also known as Anti-Corruption-6 and headed by Gujarat cadre IPS officer Manoj Shashidhar, was formed in June 2016 under then Special Director Rakesh Asthana to expedite probe against Mallya and in the chopper case. It has successfully secured Mallya’s extradition in a UK court and filed a charge sheet against former Air Chief SP Tyagi.
A team from the SIT will station itself in Mumbai to begin questioning people connected with the late actor including his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, Bollywood producers and others who gave statements after his death or know about the circumstances related to his death, officials familiar with development said.
The decision to hand over the probe to the SIT was taken as CBI’s Special Crimes unit, which usually investigates such cases, has its hands full. “The Special Crimes unit is currently probing high-profile cases related to the custodial death of the father-son duo of P Jayaraj and J Bennicks in Tamil Nadu in June as well as the suicide of SHO, Vishnudutt Vishnoi in Churu, Rajasthan, on May 23. In the SHO case, CBI had last month questioned Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot’s OSD – Devaram Saini,” an official at the agency said requesting anonymity.
Around eight officials of CBI’s special crimes unit who had gone to investigate Tamil Nadu’s custodial deaths are in quarantine after some of them contracted Covid-19.
CBI is likely to take the help of medical experts from reputed institutions to study the postmortem report of Sushant Singh Rajput, another official at the agency said. If it believes at any stage that Rhea Chakraborty or others are misleading it, the agency may even consider conducting lie-detection tests on them, this officer added, asking not to be named.
KK Singh has alleged that Rhea Chakraborty and his family drove his son to suicide and appropriated his (Rajput’s) assets.
Apart from Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik Chakraborty, CBI has named her family members and the manager of Rajput’s house, Samuel Miranda, as accused . The charges are criminal conspiracy, cheating and abetment to suicide.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is separately investigating the case as it suspects there has been money laundering by some suspects. The ED questioned Samuel Miranda on Thursday while Singh’s chartered accountant Sandeep Sridhar was examined on Tuesday.
Rhea Chakraborty has been asked by the ED to appear before it on Friday. Her lawyer Satish Maneshinde said, “The Bihar government transferred a case with which it had no jurisdiction to investigate to CBI instead of the Mumbai Police, which is the legal position. The Supreme Court is seized of the issue pursuant to the transfer petition filed by Rhea Chakraborty. The SC has directed all parties to file their replies and Mumbai Police are directed to place the report of investigations.”
“Pending the said proceedings, the CBI has registered and continued the illegality which was perpetrated at the hands of Bihar Police. CBI being a premier investigative agency in the country should desist from taking any further steps pending the SC proceedings. Apart from the same unless the Maharashtra Government consents to CBI investigating the case… it would be totally illegal and beyond any known legal principles, affecting the federal structure of the nation.”
Rajput’s death, believed to be a suicide by Mumbai police, initially led to theories about how outsiders have it difficult in Bollywood and the role of nepotism in driving him to desperation, but soon moved on to darker conspiracy theories.
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