A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court, which framed charges against former media tycoons Indrani and Peter Mukerjea and Indrani’s first husband Sanjeev Khanna, said it relied on emails, SMSes and call records while doing so. It also relied on the statements of witnesses, particularly those of Rahul Mukerjea, Peter’s younger son from his first marriage and Sheena’s fiancé; Kajal Sharma, an employee of Indrani; Shyamwar Rai, Indrani’s former driver who has turned approver, and a security guard at the Mukerjeas’ home at Marlow building, Worli.
All three accused were charged with murder, kidnapping, destroying evidence and giving false information. The court also charged Indrani with using a forged document as genuine. However, the court dropped the charges of cheating, forgery for cheating and causing hurt with poison.
Peter’s lawyer Mihir Gheewala had challenged the charges invoked by CBI and contended that they didn’t apply to his client. “There is no evidence or material to show Peter’s involvement for the charges of attempt to murder, cheating and forgery,” Gheewala had contended.
Referring to the CBI’s charge sheet, Gheewala said, “The agency has tried to colour the case by adding several emails and messages. The agency, by referring to some paragraphs and lines, has tried to interpret and draw an inference for the involvement of Peter.”
Khanna’s lawyer Niranjan Mundargi had contested some of the charges levelled against him. Mundargi said he didn’t have anything to say about conspiracy and murder charges but added, “As far as the instances of forgery or cheating are concerned, Khanna has no role to play. Hence those charges cannot be applied.”
The court noted that the SC, in the case of Kanti Bhadrahsha versus the State of West Bengal, had said detailed reasoning was not required when framing charges. “Hon’ble Apex court has observed what is required to be looked into is the ground for proceeding against the accused for the offence charged in the matter,” the CBI court’s order read. It noted the SC had made it clear that at the stage of framing charges, there was no need to consider “sufficiency of materials for the purpose of conviction or acquittal”. The court said the statements of witnesses left no doubt on pressing charges of murder, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, giving false information to save an offender, and criminal conspiracy. The court, however, held there was not enough evidence to charge the three with intentionally omitting to give information, causing hurt by means of poison, extortion, cheating and forgery for cheating.