The Bombay High Court granted bail on Friday to the three women doctors arrested in the suicide case of their junior colleague Payal Tadvi in May, but imposed a slew of restrictions on them.
Justice Sadhana Jadhav granted bail to Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Meher and Ankita Khandelwal, who are in jail since May 29, on a cash surety of Rs two lakh each.
The judge also imposed several other stringent conditions on their bail. The three doctors have been booked by the Mumbai Crime Branch for allegedly abetting Tadvi's suicide by ragging, harassing and passing casteist comments against her.
The high court granted them bail after Special Public Prosecutor (SSP) Raja Thakre told the judge that he had no objection since the chargesheet in the case was already filed.
According to the high court order, the accused doctors cannot leave the city without the trial court's permission. The high court also prohibited them from entering the premises of the civic-run B Y L Nair hospital in the city, where they and Tadvi, who hailed from a tribal community, worked.
Tadvi, a second-year resident doctor at the hospital, was pursuing MD in gynaecology. The accused were also restrained from entering any area under the jurisdiction of the Agripada police station, where the incident took place, to ensure that there was no tampering of evidence.
Justice Jadhav also said their medical licences should remain under suspension till the conclusion of the trial in the case. "Let them (the accused doctors) remain in public domain with this stigma," the court said.
After a special court rejected their bail applications last month, the three doctors moved the high court seeking the relief. The special court had rejected their bail applications stating that there was a likelihood of the accused trying to abscond or tamper with the evidence in the case.
Dealing with the bail pleas of the accused, another high court bench had earlier directed that the proceedings in the case be video recorded in accordance with the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Advocate General of Maharashtra Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, however, told the court on Friday that the Act merely provided for video recording of the proceedings and not audio recording.
He said the purpose of such video recording was to use the footage for witness protection and not for including the same in the trial as evidence.
Thakre told the court that the Crime Branch had already recorded the statements of six relevant witnesses, who were Tadvi's course-mates, and these included her roommate -- Dr Snehal Shinde.
Their statements were recorded under section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) before a magistrate and would be used as evidence in the case, he said. Thakre also told the court that the prosecuting agency had already communicated to the municipal commissioner its letter recommending a departmental inquiry against Dr Yi Ching Ling, the head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at the B Y L Nair hospital.
At this, the court said the reason it expected that some disciplinary action would be taken against Dr Ching Ling was that she was the HoD and yet, had refused to take any action on the complaint raised before her.
"All custodians in all colleges must be aware that it is their duty to protect students and consider their complaints. In this case, the HoD has failed in her duty.
"After this incident, how many students from rural areas would think of taking admission in your college?," the court asked. "I can say that these people (the accused) were insensitive and were probably not aware of the background of Dr Payal.
"She (Tadvi) was a bright student, I have seen her results and she had consistently scored 65-plus marks in all her exams. "How can you call such a bright student a dumb person? This is the most unfortunate case," the judge said.
During the previous hearing, the court had observed that in ignoring the harassment complaints made by Tadvi's mother, Dr Ching Ling had shirked responsibility. The court had asked the prosecution to inform it as regards what action could be taken against Dr Ching Ling under the Anti-Ragging Act.
Tadvi (26) had committed suicide by hanging herself in her hostel room on May 22. Her family had accused the three doctors of harassment and caste discrimination. The police had subsequently found a mobile phone image of the purported suicide letter Tadvi had left behind, blaming the accused doctors for her extreme step and expressing worry for her roommate, Dr Shinde.