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Cops Begin Twin Probe Into Law Intern’s Death After #MeToo Plaint

Bengaluru lawyer found dead under suspicious circumstances, days after complaining of sexual misconduct.

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An impassive man sits guard outside Lakku Homes in Bengaluru’s Malleshwaram, where 26-year-old advocate Pushpa Archana Lall was found dead under mysterious circumstances on Saturday, 24 November.

On 20 November, Lall had filed a plaint of sexual misconduct and harassment against her senior, Chandra Nayak T of Jayanth Pattanshetti and Associates, a law firm on Infantry Road, and another advocate Chetan Desai, with the Commercial Street police station.

According to a representative of the law firm, Nayak, voluntarily quit his job on 30 October, right after a meeting between him and Lall, mediated by the firm the same day. The meeting was requested by Lall to bring attention to her allegations of misconduct against Nayak.

The guard refused to answer when PG owner SA Leelavathi would return to the house. But Lall’s brother Sunil and father Tulasi had cleared her belongings from her room, on Sunday. Her father soon after returned to their home in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands along with her remains, while her brother stayed in the city to follow up on the investigation.

Bengaluru lawyer found dead under suspicious circumstances, days after complaining of sexual misconduct.
The rooms above a Syndicate Bank branch constitute Lakku Homes.
(Photo: The Quint)

Police Launch Twin Probe

The two lawyers accused of sexual harassment, Chandra Nayak T and Chetan Desai, had appeared in court and obtained bail, two days after her complaint.

However, the cops have begun a twin probe. While the Vayalikaval police are investigating the unnatural death, Commercial Street police are probing the sexual harassment complaint.

Vyalikaval police have registered a case of unnatural death under Section 174 of the CrPC which deals with suicide and extends to “circumstances raising a reasonable suspicion that some other person has committed an offence”.

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Her Sexual Misconduct Plaint and the Fallout

Lall had approached the Commercial Street on 20 November and in her complaint, had accused Nayak and Desai of misbehaving with her on multiple occasions. She has accused them of “groping” her, showing her obscene content and sending threatening messages.

“During my internship, I met Chetan Desai at the High Court. On different occasions, they took me to pubs in Indiranagar and made me drink. They gathered my personal details and misbehaved with me and groped me and showed me indecent videos. They threatened my life over phone calls and WhatsApp messages.
Pushpa Archana Lall in her statement

When contacted, a representative of Jayanth Pattanshetti and Associates said that “they were not aware of anything”.

“Pushpa was an intern in the office, while she was pursuing her LLB course. She completed her course and issued a certificate on 3 July 2018. What has transpired during that period, we are not aware of as nothing has happened in the office,” he said.

Lall obtained her LLB degree from Bishop Cotton Womens Christian Law College and graduated this year.

The representative went on to say that Nayak had been working as a junior advocate in the litigation wing and Desai, was a government advocate and friend of Chandra’s.

Talking about whether or not they were aware of the harassment charges levelled, the representative said,

“This has happened a long time back, and she was not an employee of the office, she was an intern. For the first time she brought it to our notice on 29 October, by way of mail, she had lodged a complaint against Nayak and Desai. And she wanted us to facilitate a meeting between her and Chandra Nayak on 30 October. She came to office and this meeting happened, thereafter she has not come back. On 30th, after this meeting, he (Nayak) voluntarily left the firm.”
Law firm representative

Police officials told The Quint on Monday, 26 November, that it was in fact the suspects Chandra Nayak T and Chetan Desai, who had apparently asked Lall’s father Tualsi Lall to come to Bengaluru and mediate on the fraying relationship and recent accusations made by his daughter.

Lall Had Quit Job 8 Days Prior; Had Recently Moved to PG

While previous reports had been ambiguous of the intentions of the lawyer accompanying Lall to Lakku Homes on November, police officials told The Quint that they were, in fact, helping Lall find accommodation.

Eight days before her death, she had quit her job at Infantry Road and started working at the offices of one Mr Hegde at 11th cross, Malleshwaram, from 15 November.

In her complaint to the police, Leelavathi said that Lall had come to the PG first on the evening of 16 November, with an advocate named Chandrashekhar. He allegedly explained that Lall was working with Hegde as a junior at 11th cross, Malleshwaram and requested her to be accommodated in the PG.

According to sources, Lall’s father and brother had arrived in Bengaluru on 22 November and had sorted an appointment with DCP (East) Rahal Kumar Shahapurwad to discuss the harassment and misconduct plaint against Lall’s superiors. However, on the day of the meeting with the senior cop, Lall was found dead.

How She Was Found

According to a police complaint by SA Leelavathi, the manager of the girls-only PG, her cooking lady found Lall on the floor of her room around 11:15 am on Saturday, 24 November. Leelavathi rushed to the spot from her residence immediately at 11:30 am.

They hastened to take her to a nearby hospital, KC General, barely 5 minutes away. After failing to call an ambulance or finding one serviceable, she was taken in an auto, along with the assistance of the Vyalikaval where she was declared dead.

Cops Await Detailed Medical Report

Rubbishing premature reports of Lall possibly overdosing on pills, an inspector of the Vyalikaval station said that the post mortem report was awaited after which samples would be sent to the forensic science lab (FSL). The FSL reports would determine the levels of toxins and other chemicals.

According to the police, prima facie, murder had been more or less ruled out. There was no suicide note found, confirmed cops, contrary to previous reports.

In the absence of the FSL report, the post mortem report is likely to not mention the cause of death. The officer said that it would take at least three to four months for the forensic report results to come in.

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