Politicians across party lines, the police and governments of two states, and a former girlfriend — all waded into the mystery and controversy surrounding the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput on June 14 which has moved on from theories and investigations into how nepotism in Bollywood may have claimed the life of the talented actor to allegations of a criminal conspiracy involving his girlfriend at the time of his death.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates money laundering and foreign exchange violations, on Friday registered a case against Rhea Chakraborty and some members of her family in connection with the death of Rajput,34,people familiar with the development said.
The ED case, registered under the prevention of money laundering act (PMLA), is based on a Bihar police FIR filed Tuesday on the basis of a complaint by Rajput’s father KK Rajput.
The officials said that Chakraborty, Rajput’s girlfriend and an actress herself, is likely to be summoned for questioning next week by the ED.
Reacting to allegations against her, Chakraborty, 28,issued a video statement on Friday saying: “I have immense faith in God and the judiciary. I believe that I will get justice. Even though a lot of horrible things are being said about me…I refrain from commenting on the advice of my lawyers as the matter is sub-judice. Satyamev Jayate. The truth shall prevail.”
The involvement of the ED brings a federal agency into an investigation where the Mumbai and Bihar police are involved. OnJuly 16, Chakraborty demanded that the Central Bureau of Investiation look into the matter, but the Maharashtra government has said there is no need for a CBI probe.
In his complaint on Tuesday, Rajput’s father alleged that Chakraborty and her family developed an acquaintance with his son as part of a deliberate conspiracy so that Rhea could establish herself in the film industry, and with an eye on his son’s money.
He claimed there were unexplained transfers from his son’s account including a Rs 15 crore transaction. He also alleged that on June 6, less than a week before Rajput was found dead in his house, Chakraborty left with many of his belongings, including his laptop, ATM card and some documents.
In his complaint, Rajput’s father also sought to invoke the provisions of the Mental Health Care Act, alleging that the machinations of Chakraborty and her family members caused his son to break down, despite a successful career in films, and ultimately drove him to suicide.
Legal experts said that the ED probe is different from that of the police because under PMLA, a person is presumed guilty until he proves his innocence.
Dr Sujay Kantawala, senior lawyer who specialises in PMLA cases, said: “When the Bihar police lodged the FIR, the provisions were of Indian Penal Code. Here you are presumed innocent and burden of proof is on prosecution to prove the charge. However, when ED comes in the picture, there is reverse burden of proof.”
Kantawala further explained that the accused person is entitled to get a copy of FIR registered by police or CBI, but ED’s ECIR (equivalent to FIR) is not given to the accused.
The Mumbai Police is already investigating Rajput’s death. After the Patna police filed its FIR, Chakraborty’s legal team said it would challenge their jurisdiction and filed a plea in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to the effect. The Bihar government said on Friday that it will oppose the petition filed by Chakraborty.
Advocate General Lalit Kishore said the state would be represented before the apex court by former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi.
He asserted that the matter fell very much within the jurisdiction of the state as the FIR was lodged on the basis of a complaint filed by Rajput’s father who resides in Patna.
Kishore also dismissed Chakraborty’s contention that all cases in the matter be shifted to Mumbai and pointed out that the police in the western metropolis has not even lodged an FIR. .
“It is the Patna Police which lodged the first FIR in the matter. I wonder how the Mumbai Police intends to investigate a matter without registering a proper case,” he said.
On reports of non-cooperation from the Mumbai police with a four-member police team from Patna which is in the metropolis to probe the matter, the advocate general said, “If it is so, it is very unfortunate. It is normal practice for law enforcers to cooperate with visiting police teams from other states.”
Among other politicians who jumped into the issue were Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party founder Ram Vilas Paswan and former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The Lok Janshakti Party founder told PTI that Rajput’s alleged suicide is shrouded in mystery and expressed his anguish at the “lack of progress” in the case and sought a CBI probe.
Fadnavis sought an ED probe before the agency said it would investigate the matter.
“There is a huge sentiment among the people in the Sushant Singh Rajput case. They feel something is being hidden, new revelations are being made. Hence, people are demanding a CBI probe into it,” he said.
The Mumbai police are investigating the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case and it is expected they will arrive at a conclusion soon, Maharashtra minister Jayant Patil said .
The Water Resources Minister also advised everyone against speaking about the private life of the actor. He specifically asked political “leaders from Maharashtra” to stop “tweeting and expressing their opinions about it”.
“The (Mumbai) police will investigate the matter on the basis of evidence. We are expecting they will complete the investigation and arrive at a conclusion soon,” Patil said.
Asked about the Bihar police conducting a probe in Mumbai in connection with a separate FIR registered in Patna, Patil, a former Maharashtra home minister, said: “The thing is since an FIR was registered there, it will be probed. The Mumbai police will give the information Bihar police want. They (Bihar police) will proceed further if they get any evidence.”
Mumbai police have recorded statements of Bollywood personalities including Sanjay Leela Bhansali, film critic Rajeev Masand, actress Sanjana Sanghi, Rhea Chakraborty, casting director Shanoo Sharma, filmmaker Mukesh Chhabra, and Aditya Chopra of Yash Raj Films.
The police have so far recorded statements of around 40 people, including those of Rajput’s family and his cook.
Rajput’s former girlfriend, TV actor Ankita Lokhande, said the actor had an admirable zest for life and that she cannot believe that he died by suicide.
“I can’t comment on Sushant and Rhea’s relationship. I was not there. As for Sushant’s family, I want to take a stand for them. They must have something to prove and show people,” she said in an interview with India Today.