Charu Deshpande suicide: cops finally file case against Tata Steel official

The Thane police on Monday finally registered a case of abetment to suicide Tata Steel official Prabhat Sharma for the death of Charudatta Deshpande (57), former corporate affairs and communication chief of Tata Steel.

Maharashtra home minister ordered the police investigation after pressure from media persons, including the Press Club of Mumbai. The police have registered an offence under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code against Sharma.

It took the police 143 days to seriously investigate the circumstances that compelled 'Charu', as he was known to his friends, to hang himself at his Vasai Gaon flat on 28 June 2013. The police lodged the case on a complaint registered by Indrajit Gupta, former editor of Forbes India, which published an article on Tata Steel in its April 2013 edition.

The police, who had initially registered the case as accidental death under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Code, have now converted the case to an FIR for abetment to suicide, which is a cognisable offence. This FIR will alter the future course of investigations.

Charu Deshpande reportedly faced tremendous pressure at his work place in Tata Steel, Jamshedpur before he took his life after a feature article was published in Forbes India.

After days of investigation and interrogation of over 47 witnesses, the joint Crime Branch (Mumbai) and Thane (Rural) team of police officers stumbled upon a large body of evidence. This included diary notings by Charu and depositions by colleagues and journalists that clearly pointed to an orchestrated harassment by a set of Tata Steel persons aimed at humiliating and pushing him out from his post as head of corporate communications.

A detailed statement by Indrajit Gupta, shed light on how much of this harassment was triggered by the article in Forbes for which Charu was suspected to have leaked confidential material.

Despite clinching pointers to the role of these Tata Steel officials in Charu's death, the case was proceeding slowly, and there was concern among journalists both in Mumbai and Jamshedpur that the probe was being deliberately derailed.

This concern was voiced by the Press Club to the state government. Thereafter, the police machinery was cranked up, and the Vasai Police (under whose jurisdiction the Charu's unfortunate death took place) went ahead and formally registered an FIR and has launched a fresh investigation.

Meanwhile, there is still no sign of the internal investigation report of Tata Steel. After Charu's death a large number of senior persons had written to the chairman of Tata Sons, Cyrus Mistry, demanding an impartial Inquiry.

In a separate letter, ICICI Bank executve director K Ramkumar, a friend of Deshpande who had worked with him at the bank, had also written in his personal capacity to Ratan Tata, Cyrus Mistry and Krishna Kumar, director, Tata Sons, on 30 June requesting a probe into the causes leading to Deshpandes's demise.

Mistry responded with alacrity and set up a board of inquiry of company persons promising to release the findings in three months (See: Tatas to probe suicide of ex-employee Charudutta Deshpande).

The Press Club said in a media statement to its members that even after five months and several written reminders by it, the investigation findings have not been released.