Gopal Goyal Kanda, the former Haryana minister who is the prime accused in the suicide of former air hostess Geetika Sharma, has been sent to seven days in police custody by a court in Delhi. Mr Kanda, who was arrested by the Delhi Police in the wee hours today amidst high drama, was produced in the Rohini court today.
Earlier today, the former minister was taken to the Babu Jagjeevan Hospital for medical examination.
Mr Kanda is charged with abetment to suicide, criminal intimidation, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence. The charge of abetting suicide under section 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Ms Sharma, who had worked in several of Mr Kanda’s companies in the last six years, hanged herself in her home in Delhi on August 5. Her suicide note named Mr Kanda. Her family alleges that the Haryana politician had been harassing Ms Sharma.
Mr Kanda was asked to join investigation in the case on August 8. But he went missing instead and was on the run for 11 days. Ms Sharma’s brother has alleged that this was enough time for the politician to destroy evidence that could implicate him.
“I hope the investigation is impartial. He had sufficient time to destroy evidence against him. His statement should be recorded on camera,” Mr Sharma said.
A little after midnight on Friday, Mr Kanda’s brother Govind Kanda announced that the former Haryana Minister would surrender “in 10 minutes” at the Ashok Vihar police station. But Mr Kanda only turned up four hours later.
Minutes after he had announced that his brother would surrender, Govind Kanda was arrested by the police for “providing safe haven” to the politician.
Dressed casually in a striped shirt, Gopal Kanda arrived at the police station in a Maruti Eeco van, belonging to a news channel – UP News – and was immediately arrested. Before entering the police station amid much jostling, the former minister told reporters that he was joining investigations as directed by the Delhi Police. “I am here to help policemen in investigations. I am surrendering of my own will,” he said.
Sources say Mr Kanda decided to surrender after the Delhi High Court rejected his anticipatory bail plea on Friday on a technicality. His lawyers reportedly suggested that this could help him seek bail from the Supreme Court. But sources say when his legal advisors contacted the police regarding this, the cops seemed firm to arrest him. Faced with criticism from all quarters for the alleged delay in arresting the politician, the Delhi Police was determined to ward off any more flak. Around 10:30 on Friday night, Delhi Police chief had even tweeted that his best officers were on the job and would arrest Mr Kanda very soon.
After Mr Kanda’s brother announced that he would surrender, the police immediately got into action and barricaded all roads leading to the Ashok Vihar police station. Sources say en route the station, Mr Kanda had to hide in a parking lot of a banquet hall in south-west Delhi to evade arrest. His supporters then advised him to get into a media van. He reportedly then managed to dodge the cops at four check points and reached the police station at 4 am. But soon after he arrived, he was arrested.
The former Haryana minister was denied anticipatory bail on Friday on the ground that the petition was not filed by the person who apprehended arrest. Justice P K Bhasin, in his order, observed that the accused “appears to be sitting comfortably somewhere without any apprehension of his arrest by the police” and that his brother Govind had filed the anticipatory bail application on his behalf without any proper authorisation.
Mr Kanda will now have to wait till Tuesday to file a bail plea in Supreme Court.
On Thursday, a trial court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him; the Delhi Police had to arrest the politician before August 24, failing which he would have been declared an absconder.
10 teams of the Delhi Police raided and searched many places in Haryana, Delhi, UP, and even Sikkim and Goa, but failed to trace Mr Kanda. His lawyers had moved the High Court after the trial court rejected his application for anticipatory bail on August 9.
Arguing against bail for Mr Kanda, the police told the High Court that it needs the politician’s custody for interrogation and to confront him with his employee Aruna Chaddha, who too is accused of abetting Ms Sharma’s suicide and was named in Geetika’s suicide note. She was arrested after questioning on August 8. Her remand in judicial custody was extended by 14 days on Thursday.
The Delhi Police has told the High Court that both the accused had been pressuring Ms Sharma for a number of years to ensure that she continued to work with Mr Kanda’s MDLR group of companies; they even visited Dubai when Ms Sharma was working with an airline there, to coerce her to return, the police has alleged. Before he went missing, Mr Kanda had emphatically denied the charges.
The police have told the High Court that it has prima facie evidence against Mr Kanda and Ms Chaddha, who has also been charged with abetment to suicide and criminal intimidation of Ms Sharma. The police have also said in court that it suspects that the former Haryana minister is destroying evidence.
The police have also found out that Geetika Sharma’s Facebook account, which was active after her death, has been deactivated now. While Ms Sharma’s family claims they didn’t have Geetika’s password, the police suspect that someone close to Mr Kanda could have done this.
Police sources say Ms Chaddha had passwords to the Facebook accounts of several employees of the now defunct MDLR Airlines, which was owned by Mr Kanda and where Ms Sharma worked as a flight attendant. Though Ms Chaddha has denied this, sources say, the police have now asked cyber experts to probe this.