A local court on Tuesday remanded artist Chintan Upadhyay to police custody till January 1, in the double murder of his estranged wife, noted artist Hema Upadhyay and her senior citizen lawyer Haresh Bhambani.
The court observed that “It appears from the police papers that there was a conspiracy and with the other accused he is also involved. As per police case Chintan had played active part in the conspiracy.”
Chintan was on Tuesday arrested in connection with murder. The police have charged him under Indian Penal code section 302 (Punishment for murder), 120 (B) (punishment for criminal conspiracy) and section 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender).
Here’s what we know about the murder so far:
The crime : Bodies of 43-year-old artist Hema Upadhyay and her lawyer Harish Bhambani, were found on December 12, packed in boxes and dumped in a drain in the Kandivali area of Mumbai.
Hema’s body was found with her hands tied behind her back, while Bhambani’s face was mangled. Both the bodies were half naked and were identified only the next day.
Arrests: Hema’s estranged husband Chintan Upadhyay -- also an artist-- and four others have been arrested so far. The main accused Vidyadhar Rajbhar, who is reportedly close to Chintan, is still at large. The other four men arrested were employed by Rajbhar at his fabrication workshop.
Motive: Not yet fully known, but police sources said Chintan admitted to a property dispute.
Hema and Chintan filed for divorce in 2010 after a troubled marriage and Bhambhani was the lawyer who represented her.
In 2014, a family court ordered Chintan to pay her a permanent alimony of Rs 16.51 lakh. Hema challenged the order in the high court, and the case was being battled out.
Hema’s relatives alleged that Chintan was involved in the double murder. He, however , told the police that though they were not together, there were no problems between them.
Modus operandi: This is how police sources described the sequence of events.
On December 11, Rajbhar -- who had a financial dispute with Hema over an art installation -- allegedly lured Hema to his workshop saying he had evidence that would help in her alimony case. This was verified with witness statements and phone records.
Police sources said he told his four workers they needed to “scare” somebody. He had procured a can of chloroform the previous day.
Hema then called up to say Bambhani was coming with her and Rajbhar allegedly told his workers they now needed to “scare” two people.
As soon as they entered the workshop and sat down the workers switched off the lights and allegedly held cloths doused in chloroform to their faces.
Hema succumbed in a while, but Bhambani scuffled and scratched Vidhyadhar’s face before he too was overpowered. The bodies were then packed in boxes and dumped in the sewer.