Exclusive: How Did Anissia Batra Die? Singhvis End Their Silence
The Singhvis had not spoken publicly about the case till date. Here’s their version of events and how it stacks up.
Last year in July, 39-year-old Anissia Batra was found dead outside her husband’s house in South Delhi’s Panchsheel Park, allegedly having jumped to her death from the roof. And though her death has been widely reported as suicide, her family still staunchly believes that she was murdered.
The Batras have gone on the record to talk about the crime they say has been committed, but so far, the Singhvis had not spoken publicly. The Quint spoke to one of them to get their version of events.
The main accused in Anissia’s death is her husband, Mayank Singhvi, followed by her in-laws, Sushma and RS Singhvi. They have been charged with dowry death (Section 304-D), cruelty by husband and relatives (Section 498-A) and furtherance of common intention (Section 34) of the IPC. While Mayank remains in jail, the in-laws are out on bail.
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In a case that is yet to move to trial nine months after the first charge sheet was filed, The Quint reached out to both sides for a status check and to understand how the court hearings are proceeding and what is keeping the case from going to trial.
On Accusations of ‘Open Threats’ Launched Against Anissia's Brother
Anissia’s family has claimed that the flight attendant, who worked with a German airline, was emotionally and physically assaulted by her husband right from their honeymoon after they got married in February 2017. Anissia’s brother, Karan, told The Quint that in the aftermath of her ‘fall’ from the building, the Singhvis “did not have the decency to inform them that she had died”, nor did they pick up their calls, nor did they attend her funeral.
On the other hand, the Singhvis have said that the past one year has “not been easy” for them. When The Quint reached out to the Singhvi family member, with questions, they responded with a request that they remain unnamed. This is the first time they’re commenting on the case.
They told The Quint, “Their reputation has been tarnished and maligned by twisting facts of the case. They were not even given the time to mourn the death of their daughter-in-law and have continuously been subjected to a media trial without ascertaining the correct facts of the case. Every coin has two sides, as does this.”
Karan, however, insists that the apathy of the Singhvi family turned ugly as the court proceedings began. He claims to have been “openly threatened in court by the Singhvis”.
Karan, who is 34 and six years younger to Anissia, used to visit Delhi only to spend time with his sister. Now, he has moved from Bengaluru to ensure he is present for every hearing, to fight for his sister.
Recalling the attempts at intimidation, Karan says, “Several times when Mayank Singhvi has come for court hearings, he has categorically said to my face, 'dekh loonga tereko (I will see to you)', 'I'll teach you a lesson.' His mother, Sushma Singhvi, who is out on bail, also tries to intimidate me by staring me down. In the corridors she passes comments at me like, ‘You just wait and watch,’ and ‘ghatiya family (You’re from a pathetic family’).”
A Singhvi family member, responding to Karan’s allegation, says, “The said allegation is false, baseless and concocted with an attempt to malign the reputation of the Singhvi family”.
On ‘Singhvis’ Political Clout Affecting Course of Case’
Karan attributes the Singhvis’ brash behavior to the political clout they enjoy.
“The main accused, Mayank Singhvi, is related to senior judges and lawyers, including former Chief Justice of India and a prominent lawyer-politician. There are other influential judges and lawyers they're related to as well. We, as a family, have apprehensions that this is what is leading to the delay in the trial from the beginning even nine months after the charge sheet was filed.”
This was a claim made by the family in the aftermath of Anissia’s death as well. In a presentation made to the president of India on 16 July, Anissia’s family made known their apprehensions of the Singhvis being close relatives of two retired judges of the Supreme Court of India.
Responding to allegations of the political clout affecting the course of the investigation, a Singhvi family member told The Quint, “This false allegation has been repeatedly made against the Singhvi family to malign their reputation and gain public sympathy. The fact is that the investigation was completed only recently and the final supplementary charge sheet was filed in July 2019. The matter is listed for arguments on charge in August 2019.”
The response by the Singhvis brings us to the next concern regarding the delay in the case moving to trial, which involves having basic arguments on charge which happens after police submit the charge sheet. The primary charge sheet was filed by the special crime branch of Delhi Police within the mandatory 90 days, in October 2018.
This was followed by the first supplementary charge sheet which was filed by November 2018. A second supplementary charge sheet was then filed in July 2019.
Singhvis Refute Allegations of Dowry
In the sections included against the Singhvis is 304-D of the IPC, which is dowry death. Anissia’s family said that soon after her marriage the Singhvis began to make dowry demands.
The Singhvi family member refuted initial articles and news reports that came out in the media They told told The Quint:
“In the initial articles and news reports, it was callously reported to sensationalise the case that Anissia’s family gave a diamond ring and a BMW car to Mayank as dowry. However, the truth can be borne out from the record/bank statement that it was Mayank who had purchased the car and diamond ring with his personal funds and gifted the same to Anissia on their wedding anniversary and her birthday, respectively. This fact has been later reported in various news reports.”
Karan clarified to The Quint that their family had never made these specific claims and continues to re-emphasise that dowry demands were made after the marriage. Karan told The Quint, “The dowry demands have nothing to do with the ring or the car. Let the evidence and investigation take its course in court.”
Charge Sheet Filed 9 Months Ago, Then Why Has Trial Not Begun?
Arguments on charge are essential to begin any judicial proceedings as they determine the charges under which the accused will be tried in the court of law. Here, the charges include dowry death and cruelty.
When The Quint reached out to the Singhvis to understand the cause of delay, the family member said, “The trial has not been delayed and the fact is that the final supplementary charge sheet was filed only in July 2019.”
We also reached out to Vishal Gosain, Karan’s private counsel, who said, “It is correct that the second supplementary charge sheet was submitted in July 2019. However, there is enough evidence to have arguments on charge based on the first charge sheet filed in October 2018.”
“The investigation in the role of the main accused, Mayank Singhvi, has been completed. Even in context of the in-laws, their role in her death has been clarified in the first charge sheet. The law is that once the police file the primary charge sheet, they can file any number of charge sheets over time.”Vishal Gosain, Private Counsel to Anissia’s family
He said that when the Singhvis had filed for anticipatory bail for Anissia’s in-laws, a request that was rejected at the trial court and high court, their lawyers argued for anticipatory bail on the basis of the police having completed their investigation.
The court order in the Supreme Court reads, “Mr Mukul Rohatgi, learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioners, submits that charge sheet in this case has since been filed before the court concerned. If that be so, liberty is granted to the petitioners to apply for grant of regular bail before the court concerned.”
To insinuate that the investigation was only completed recently is, then, not proper, he concludes.
Singhvis Blame Prosecution for Delay in Arguments
On delay of arguments on charge, the Singhvis added, “The dates for hearing on charge have been fixed a number of times. However, the same have not taken place conclusively due to delay in compliance of the orders of the Hon’ble Court by the prosecution.”
The prosecution here implies Anissia Batra’s counsel.
Gosain, however, denied the claim.
“There has been no delay in the compliance of the orders of the Hon’ble Court by the prosecution,” he said, while elaborating on the delayed process. “During the Delhi high court bail hearings for Mayank, the accused’s lawyer argued to include certain documents which were collected during police investigation but did not make it to the charge sheet due to the discretion of the investigating agency. It is in this context that the police had to file necessary responses. Unfortunately, the high court hearings, which eventually rejected the bail plea for Mayank Singhvi, aided no movement for arguments on charge on the case. It is because the investigating agency got stuck responding to applications filed by Singhvi’s lawyers in the high court that the trial court have proceeded at a sluggish pace.”
The matter is now listed for 1 August 2019.
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