Sushant Singh Rajput
Sushant was found hanging at his Bandra home in June last year | Photo: PTI

Sushant’s case a test for CBI, it should not show haste to play to the gallery

Investigation into Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suspicious death has gone through far too many twists and turns. It is a fascinating story for the media to lap up. Is it the sympathy for the late actor’s grieving family that is manifesting itself?

Investigation into Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s suspicious death has gone through far too many twists and turns. It is a fascinating story for the media to lap up. Is it the sympathy for the late actor’s grieving family that is manifesting itself? Or is it merely crass sensationalism aimed at bringing in revenue to a much-starved media that has suffered huge losses from the global pandemic?

I am not all that sure that the public are that hooked on to a sordid tale of a man (Sushant) and an infatuated female (Rhea Chakraborty). Rightly or wrongly, Rhea has already been pilloried as the wrongdoer by a screaming media.

In 2020, it would be preposterous to lambast the media for its obsession with the case. This is the order of the day, when the common man wants excitement, and the competition is intense among many outfits ready to peddle it for small profits. Let us, however, ignore all the distortions that have crept in and hope for justice to Sushant’s family if it has been wronged.

Simultaneously, independent of this, many are looking for an exposé of at least a few of the aberrations in Bollywood. Many objective observers have vouched for the fact that Bollywood has many forbidding features and that it is a dangerous jungle requiring not merely talent and muscle power but also vile of the highest order to survive and succeed. If it is proved that Sushant was a victim of success and jealousy of his competitors, the high-decibel investigation would have justified the attention given to it.

A CBI investigation is on and it seems to have picked up some momentum. At this stage, it will be not only unethical but injurious to the system if we start speculating on what further surprises are in store for us. Any excessive attention will place too much pressure on the investigation team that could drive it to trump up findings in haste that could crumble in quick time in a court of law. Let us give enough time and space to the CBI to come up with logical and sustainable conclusions. I am sure the CBI has enough elan and skill to deliver results.

Related news: Rhea Chakraborty grilled by CBI for 9 hours on Day 3 in Sushant case

I look at every such important investigation as a means to upgrade the quality of criminal investigation in the country, which is, at present, abysmally sub-standard, especially in state police. The excessive dependence on a central agency in such matters is no doubt fraught with grave consequences for future police professionalism. It not only merely cuts into the concept of federalism that is evolving slowly but steadily in a huge nation like ours. It also reduces the capacity of the state police to produce quick results in an investigation like the one into Sushant’s death. You may fault the judiciary for frequently resorting to the CBI to unravel the truth. Judges have told me that they do this because they have lost confidence in the state police, which, according to them, has, over decades, lost its objectivity and professionalism. I endorse such an assessment because it is greed at the cutting edge of the police that seems to dictate the outcome of an investigation in many states.

That is not to say the CBI is pure and perfect. It has had its own ups and downs. Nevertheless, it has retained an edge over the state police because it is reasonably insular from political caprice. Also, it has a better pool of talent of officers with the required zest to deliver results. A number of young IPS officers from the states with a good track record are now willing to join the CBI and make a mark. Unlike in earlier decades when the preference was for the Intelligence Bureau, the present crop of IPS officers want to hitch their destinies with the CBI. This is an advantage the CBI should not fritter away.

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The same is true of CBI direct recruits with good academic record but low motivation arising from poor promotion prospects. A few of high merit and performance from the latter group should be identified and treated differently from the rest of their colleagues and given enough incentives so that they give their best to the organisation. I concede that there are legal difficulties in creating such an elite group. But the present Prime Minister has the vision and drive that would help create such an ace group that will complement the IPS officers on deputation with the CBI. Only such innovations can make the CBI a crackforce to help raise the quality of investigation.

The CBI has its job cut out in the Sushant case. It is said that the post-mortem report subscribes to a suicide. There is a theory floated by some that it is a murder followed by hanging by interested parties. If that were to be the case, how does one overcome the post-mortem findings without attributing motives to the doctors who conducted it?

A murder charge demands a strong motive to commit the crime. This is yet to be established. Money and drugs are being mentioned.

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Rhea was an authorised partial resident of Sushant’s household. The two had a strong relationship. When that is the case, how does one prove that she stole money (which she later laundered) and valuable documents that belonged to Sushant? There are formidable legal challenges here for the CBI.

Those who are baying for Rhea’s blood demand that she and a few others should be charged for abetment to Sushant’s suicide. I am always amused whenever such a demand is made. I have had the experience of two cases where a similar demand was made. The first of these, in the 1980s, was the suicide of actress Shoba. I successfully resisted the pressure to proceed against film director Balu Mahendra with whom she was living. The second was the case in the 1990s of a young tennis trainee in Chandigarh who was allegedly molested by a serving DGP and who, two years later, committed suicide. Here, again, there was tremendous pressure on me to charge sheet the DGP for abetment to suicide. I held my ground because of the considerable lapse of time between the molestation and the suicide. The charge of molestation was,  however, upheld and the officer convicted. It is not all that easy to succeed in a court of law where you bring up an abetment charge.

This is a complicated case if one wants to go beyond the alleged suicide. You will be really entering a jungle if you want to link up passion, drugs and money. The CBi is facing a test. Till now, it has shown maturity by not playing to the gallery. An inquisitive media may, however, force its hands in the next few weeks to leak some findings, just to show that they mean business.

The Mumbai police has been rightly assailed for not coming out with an acceptable explanation for not drawing up an FIR. This raises suspicion that it has some external direction not to hasten the pace of its preliminary enquiries.

(R.K.Raghavan is a former CBI Director)

(The Federal seeks to present views and opinions from all sides of the spectrum. The information, ideas or opinions in the articles are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Federal)

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