It was one of the most high profile cases that Karnataka had witnessed last year, the death of Padmapriya Bhat, wife of Raghupathy Bhat, MLA from Udupi District in Coastal Karnataka still remains a mystery although for all official purposes it is being termed as a suicide.
A year has passed since Padmapriya's death and like several cases in the country this one too is stuck at the investigation stage. Taking into consideration the high profile nature of this case, it was handed over to the Corps of Detectives. When asked about the status of this case, the CoD was tight lipped and the most some officers told rediff.com is that it is under investigation.
What is strange is that the CoD has managed to buy time to file the chargesheet when the legal mandate is that a chargesheet ought to be filed within three months of the incident.
Padmapriya had disappeared from her house in Udupi on June 10, 2008, following which her husband, Raghupathy Bhat had filed a missing persons complaint. Later her car was found abandoned near Katapady village near Udupi. The case created quite a flutter and the Home Minister of State, V S Acharya went on say a couple of days later that they had tracked the lady and she would return home. However that very same day, Padmapriya was found hanging in her rented house in Delhi. The opposition accused the government of foul play and even accused Home Minister Dr Acharya of shielding the accused. The police then picked up Atul Rao, a child hood friend of Bhat and accused him of abetting the suicide.
For some strange reason or the other the case has not managed to progress ever since. The CoD made a shocking admission before the court during the last hearing in Udupi. When asked by the judge as to why the chargesheet was not filed, the CoD replied that they had not received the post mortem report as yet. The matter has now been posted to June 24 with a direction that the chargesheet be filed then.
The worst hit are the family members of Padmapriya. One of her cousins who did not wish to be identifieid told rediff.com over phone that they continue to wait for justice. "I know that there is more than suicide behind her death. We have started to lose faith in the investigation but have no choice but to wait for the final outcome. She was a gem of a person and it is a huge and irreplaceable loss for us" her cousin said.
Atul Rao who was arrested and subsequently released on bail refuses to comment on the case. He visits the police station as that was a condition while granting bail. "Let us see what the outcome of the investigation is and the judiciary is there to take a final call on the matter. That is all I have to say," Rao adds.
Reports emerging from Udupi suggest that there is a lot of discontent regarding this case. There are a large number of people who believe that the case is as good as closed now. However some womens' rights activists have decided to reopen the entire matter and pressurize the government and the investigating agencies to speed up the process so that justice is delivered at last. Says Shakuntala Rao a woman's rights activist, " it should not be a case of justice delayed is justice denied."