Video editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
"I got to know two days after he died that I was pregnant. But then a few weeks later I lost my child as well. Doctors say it was because my body couldn't cope with the stress. We really wanted a child," Shahista, Tabrez Ansari's wife, is grief-stricken while speaking to The Quint from Jharkhand.
Theirs was a love marriage which was held on 27 April, barely two months before he died. She was still meeting his relatives and getting accustomed to married life when in a day their collective dreams shattered. On 17 June Tabrez was tied to a pole, accused of theft, forced to chant Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman, and thrashed mercilessly for at least seven hours. Five days later, on 22 June, he succumbed to his injuries.
Today, Shahista is only thinking about the ongoing police investigation. She keeps reiterating to this reporter, "Please help me get justice. Please help ensure the accused get the strictest punishment. Please help me get my peace back." She is particularly affected by the chargesheet, submitted by the police in court on 29 July, that has dropped the charge of murder against her husband's alleged attackers. Her lawyer, Altaf Hussain, taking objection to the police investigation, has filed a protest petition in court on 31 August.
The Quint has seen the page which mentions all the charges under the charge sheet. Under this, the accused have been charged under Section 147 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 325 (causing grievous hurt) , 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 295A ( deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings).
They have been identified as Prakash Mandal alias Pappu Mandal, Kamal Mahato, Sunamo Pradhan, Premchand Mahali, Sumant Mahato, Madan Nayak, Chamu Nayak, Mahesh Mahali, Kushal Mahali, Satyanarayan Nayak and Bhim Sen Mandal.
What Led to Removing Murder As a Charge?
"We are hearing reports that Tabrez died of a sudden cardiac arrest. He however had a big wound on his head, his skull had been cracked due to the beating. How can they then say that the cause of death is just cardiac arrest?" Altaf asks.
The Quint spoke to the investigating officer on the case, R Narayan, who said that the cause of death was sudden cardiac arrest. "We have sought double opinion [opinion from two doctors] who have confirmed this," he said.
When we reached out to Human Rights Law Network lawyer Aman Khan, he said this does not sound right. "The cause of death is often shock or cardiac arrest. However, in this case, the medical opinion of the doctors has to be sought. Simply saying cardiac arrest is entirely non-conclusive and provides no basis for the police to remove Section 302 of murder in the charge sheet."
The IO, Narayan, however defended the police's call to remove the charge. "A lot of deliberation has happened. Not ever in my career have I ever seen cardiac arrest to be the cause of death in such a case. We have to go by the post-mortem report," he told The Quint.
Shahista’s lawyer, Altaf, is of the view that the police is using ‘sudden cardiac arrest’ to hide their own irresponsibility as well as shield the accused.
Is Police Downplaying Their Role in Tabrez's Death?
A three-member team, headed by the Saraikela-Kharwan Deputy Commissioner Anjaneyullu Dodde, was set up to probe the cause of Tabrez's death. They had pinned the responsibility on the police as well as the doctor. "While the police reached late, the doctors did not diagnose skull injury correctly," Dodde had said on the findings of the report that came out on 12 July.
Responding to the criticism, Narayan said, "We took him to Sadar hospital in Saraikela, he was not critical and no one had imagined at all that he would die. Yes, his CT scan didn't happen, but we are not Delhi where such facilities are readily available everywhere. Also he was not vomiting or anything either."
Another police officer, who did not want to be named, said Sadar hospital probably did not even have a CT scan machine.
Relying on the post-mortem, Narayan said, "Now since the cause of death is cardiac arrest, of course we cannot charge them under murder."
"They are trying to protect the accused," Altaf said, adding that considering that the head injury was mentioned in the post-mortem report the charge should and could have been added by the police. "We could have then argued on arguments of charge in court. If the judge does not accept our protest petition to include the charge of murder, we will approach the high court. The accused in the case have to be tried for murder," he says.
Shahista, away from the chaos of the investigation, has moved back to her parents place. She often accompanies Tabrez's uncle, Masrur, who lives half a kilometre from her home to the court and to meet the police. Both of them have pinned their hopes on the judiciary. They are hopeful that they will get justice.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)