A Delhi-based jeweller fell to his death on Wednesday, 25 April, from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence building, leading many to believe that he had committed suicide.
His family, however, refuses to believe so, and instead, alleges foul play on part of the DRI officials, who had raided his residence and his Shalimar Bagh shop the previous day.
The jeweller, Gaurav Gupta, was under the scanner of the DRI regarding an alleged case of gold smuggling after the agency received a tip-off.
According to a statement released by the agency, the officers picked up a haul worth Rs 13 crore, which included 41 kg of foreign-marked gold, 213 kg of silver bullion, and Rs 48 lakh cash.
The DRI officials also conducted raids at the Gupta residence on Tuesday evening, 24 April, which stretched well into the wee hours of Wednesday morning. However, it is after this point in the timeline that the DRI and the family offer diverging accounts of the incident.
The DRI Flip-Flop
The DRI had categorically stated in its earlier statement that Gupta was neither ‘arrested nor summoned’ at the agency’s headquarters, implying that he had appeared at the South-Delhi building of his own accord on 25 April.
However, Gupta’s family allege that he had been forcefully taken by the officials that morning.
The Quint has learnt that the family produced the CCTV footage at the Delhi High Court during the hearing of a criminal writ petition that they had filed, alleging ‘suspicious circumstances’ around Gupta’s death, compelling the DRI to retract its earlier statement and concede to having forcibly taken Gupta for further questioning.
This leads to a pertinent question – why did the DRI lie initially? Was the agency trying to hide something? While it is clear that Gupta’s death was custodial, what remains unclear is the manner in which he died.
“Gaurav Was Murdered”: Family
According to Gupta’s family, a team of DRI officials came to their residence on the evening of 24 April to conduct raids. Meanwhile, another team was present at the shop to conduct raids.
The team at the residence conducted raids till 4 am on Wednesday morning, after which they reportedly took Gupta and his father from their residence for further interrogation to the DRI building.
Speaking to The Quint, Kiran Jain, a relative of the family, said:
They (the DRI officials) said that they would have to take him to their office for further questioning as the Additional Director of DRI was there. So the son and father went along with them on Wednesday morning. We don’t know what happened during the investigation.
Jain further alleged that family was not informed of Gupta’s death, and were intimated of the same through news reports on the internet later in the night.
They have murdered him. They are saying he went to the DRI office on his own, but they are lying.
Meanwhile, speaking to Times of India, Gaurav’s father Ashok Gupta alleged that the officials who had raided the shop misbehaved with his son. Further, the women staff at the store told the daily that they were asked to switch off the CCTV cameras, and asked to leave the premises.
Ashok, who was also picked up for questioning by the DRI officials, told TOI that though he had been let off after three-four hours by the officials, his son had been retained by the department on 25 April.
During the questioning, their phones were reportedly snatched away by the officials. Ashok was then summoned again by the officials at around 4 pm, by when Gaurav had already died.
Even then he was not informed of his son’s death, he alleged.
When I questioned them about Gaurav, they instead, made me listen to a tape that allegedly had my son’s voice calling out for help.As told to TOI
Ashok also told TOI there was a waiting room where they were made to sit, before being taken to separate rooms for questioning, and this room reportedly had a window near the roof.
Speaking to TOI, Ashok said:
Even if I believe for a moment that my son committed suicide, he could have jumped only through two rooms: One where he was being questioned, or the other, the waiting room. If he jumped through the first room, then someone must have seen or encouraged him, and if he jumped through the second room, who pushed him up to the window as my son had a heavy build and there was no way he could have climbed on his own.
Meanwhile, according to a Hindustan Times report, Gupta’s mother allegedly received a call demanding Rs 1.5 crore for the release of her son from the DRI officials. Soon after the call, Gupta’s older brother Nitin reportedly rushed to the DRI office, where he was informed that his brother had been shifted to a hospital in Lodhi Road.
When Nitin reached the hospital, he noticed that his brother’s body had bruises, along with torture marks, reported HT. All these allegations were laid clear in a criminal writ petition that was filed by the family at the Delhi High Court on Thursday, 26 April.
“He Committed Suicide”: The DRI’s Version
Meanwhile, the DRI had on Wednesday, released a statement claiming that Gupta had jumped to his death from the sixth floor of their building. In the statement, the DRI also categorically stated that Gupta had neither been ‘summoned nor arrested’.
However, when the Delhi High Court heard the criminal writ petition filed by Gupta’s family on 27 April, the DRI made U-turn in its stance, claimed Nitin Ahalawat, the family’s lawyer.
Speaking to The Quint, Ahalawat said:
The court had asked the DRI to file a status report, where they accepted to having taken Gupta forcibly, based off some CCTV footage that we had provided.
However, the probe agency denied that Rs 1.5 crore was demanded from his family for his release.
Besides the DRI, the Delhi Police too filed its status report, and said a medical board of six AIIMS doctors has been constituted, and the autopsy of the 40-year-old jeweller was underway.
The judge, after taking on record the reports filed by the DRI and the police, sought a further status report from the agencies by 15 May.
In its status report, filed through advocate Satish Agarwal, the DRI said, "Gaurav Gupta was in the visitor's room on the sixth floor around noon on 25 April. He jumped through the window of the visitor's room at around noon. He was immediately rushed to Safdarjung Hospital by DRI and CISF officials. However, his life could not be saved." It said "the Directorate denies averment made in the writ petition that a demand was made to release the deceased."
The court has meanwhile asked the police to preserve the CCTV footage of Gupta's shop and the DRI office or nearby areas.
Jewellers’ Association Demand CBI Probe
The Bullion and Jewellers Association (TBJA), meanwhile, have demanded a CBI probe into Gupta’s death. The body has also demanded that a member of the association be present during the raid – and that such a provision be made mandatory under law.
The Unanswered Questions
Gupta’s death also raises a couple of other questions that need to be answered by the DRI:
- Why was Gupta made to sit in a waiting room, unaccompanied and without any surveillance, when he was there for an interrogation?
- Why was the family not immediately informed of Gupta’s death?
(With inputs from PTI)