The Bombay High Court giving some relief to former BJP MLA directed the Thane Police Crime Branch not to take any forceful action against Narendra Mehta unless or until he is cooperating in the investigation in the which he is accused of raping a party’s Dalit woman corporator.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice B P Dharmadhikari and Justice N R Borkar was hearing a petition filed by Mehta, seeking to quash the FIR lodged against him on February 28 by a woman corporator of the Mira Bhayandar Municipal Corporation, who claimed to be his first wife.
While initially the Thane Rural Police’s Mira Road Division DSPO Shantaram Walvi was probing the case, the investigation was transferred to the Thane City Police’s Crime Branch on Tuesday by the Home Minister Anil Deshmukh after the victim complained of getting threat calls. The DCP ranked officer will investigate the matter.
Mehta’s counsel Aabad Ponda on Wednesday accepted that the woman and the accused were married since 1999 and also have a son.
“The rape case has been filed after 20 years because, in the recently held civic body election, Mehta supported another candidate and not the victim,” Ponda said.
Ponda sought interim protection from arrest for Mehta, pending the hearing of the petition.
The woman’s advocate Rizwan Merchant opposed the plea, saying Mehta had taken advantage of her condition in 1999 when she separated from her first husband.
“The accused got married to the victim in 1999 but told her not to reveal the same to anyone. The victim did not agree to this, but still stayed in the relationship as the accused had promised to reveal their marriage to everyone when his political career takes off,” Merchant said.
The woman had also alleged that Mehta passed casteist slurs at her last year.
The bench, after hearing the arguments, directed the police to file their affidavit in response to Mehta’s plea by March 20.
“No coercive steps shall be taken if he (Mehta) cooperates with the investigation,” the court said.
According to the sources, “Victim and accused wife Suman Mehta both were present in the courtroom.”
What’s the matter
Mehta and his close aide Tharthare are booked under Sections 376(2)(n)(rape), 496 (illegal marriage), 417 (cheating), 323, 504, 506 of the IPC and also under Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.
In her complaint, the victim alleged that Mehta is raping her since 1999 and married her in 2001 at the Dahanu Temple. She also alleged that her family faces threat from Mehta since then. She also revealed in the complaint that, her son’s father is Mr Narendra Mehta, who was born in March 2003. Nevertheless, Mehta got married to his current wife in January 2003.
Mehta and his close aide are absconding since the FIR has been registered. However, police have seized an SUV Toyota Fortuner of a BJP corporator, allegedly in which former legislator escaped with his aide Sanjay Tharthare.