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Rediff.com  » News » Sheena Bora Trial: The Shrink Testifies

Sheena Bora Trial: The Shrink Testifies

Last updated on: January 30, 2019 17:38 IST

As he was giving evidence, Dr Matcheswalla peremptorily summoned the CBI representative over to the witness box and whispered something.
Indrani Mukerjea's advocate Sudeep Pasbola immediately cut in, wondering what he was up to: "Please, please, please."
Dr Matcheswalla, looking innocently startled, said: "I was asking if I can order for tea."
Vaihayasi Pande Daniel reports from the Sheena Bora murder trial.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

The Sheena Bora murder trial, which has been unfolding since February 2017 on the third floor of the Mumbai city civil and sessions court, south Mumbai, hadn't, till date, seen a witness like Dr Yusuf Abdulla Matcheswalla.

The unshaven psychiatrist made every attempt to elevate his ordinary witness box into a dais and those present in Courtroom 51 on Thursday, January 17,  his audience and the recipients of what he thought was their first Psych 101, like maybe he was lecturing at the Grant Government Medical College, Sir J J Group of Hospitals, where he is/was an honorary professor.

Dr Matcheswalla, whose personal Web site describes him as both 'the top psychiatrist' and as 'one of the best minds in the field of mental health care' in Mumbai, had a bombastic style, that tended to always remind those present of his seniority in his field.

As the hearing progressed, this, while causing a bit of amusement and hardly-concealed smiles, also began to rankle, given that those he was speaking to were equally senior in their own fields. And also perhaps not that ignorant of matters relating to mental illness and psychiatry.

Each question put to him harvested long, meandering answers, laden with superfluous facts and were little lessons rather than simple replies.

 

When that was remonstrated with him, his occasional refrain was: "Seekhne mein koiee burai nahin hai (Is there harm in learning a little?)" or something similar, suggesting those assembled for the hearing needed to learn more about the psychiatric world, whilst he was there to happily impart details to them.

The highlight was when he stopped the proceedings midway as he was giving evidence and peremptorily summoned the CBI representative, the bewhiskered, always smiling Durga Singh Bisht over to the witness box and whispered something.

Indrani Mukerjea's advocate Sudeep Ratnamberdutt Pasbola immediately cut in, wondering what he was up to: "Please, please, please."

Dr Matcheswalla, looking innocently startled, said: "I was asking if I can order for tea."

Everyone looked first mildly aghast and then entertained, as the room broke into a collective grin, given that nothing is allowed in an Indian courtroom by way of refreshments apart from water, even to the honourable judge.

Pasbola, chuckling, joked: "If you can, then order for all of us!"

Dr Matcheswalla considered the request for half a second and said: "I don't mind. I will order cutting chai for everyone."

Interestingly, while giving his testimony, and during his cross examination, it became more and more blurred whether the information the psychiatrist was revealing was in favour of the prosecution or the defence.

Or even who his patients had been.

Sheena Bora? Mekhail Bora? Or Indrani nee Bora Mukerjea?

They seemed to have all "benefitted" from his advice willingly/unwillingly or knowingly/unknowingly, on different occasions.

Suspense is building up too as the trajectory of the CBI's case in this trial is perhaps becoming clearer.

It now already hints that the drug supposedly administered to Sheena to make her drowsy, before she was allegedly strangled in a vehicle in April 24, 2012, was maybe the anti-psychotic risperidone, sold under the brand name risdone, that was prescribed by Dr Matcheswalla for Mekhail in 2006, six years before the crime and maybe for Indrani too.

Will the next witness be the proprietor of the chemist where Indrani customarily stocked up on prescription medicines, near her south central Mumbai home?

Will a pre-murder dated prescription be shown to the court?

To add to that -- and muddy the waters further -- for the first time too a storyline is inadvertently (or advertently) building up in Indrani's favour.

How?

Dr Matcheswalla revealed that he had been consulted by Indrani about symptoms arising from substance-induced psychosis for both Mekhail and Sheena. So rather than appearing like the mother from hell who was trying to get rid of her two eldest children for mercenary et al reasons, an alternative narrative of a concerned, anxious mother trying to treat, at no doubt high costs, both her children for drug abuse/usage is emerging, close on the heels of the information, though hearsay, revealed by the second to last witness, Pritul Sanghavi, that Sheena was once observed snorting cocaine at a night club.

Dr Matcheswalla's name first cropped up in this trial in Indrani's son Mekhail Bora's testimony in mid-2018.

Mekhail accused Indrani of forcibly admitting him into a mental institution, under the care of a menacing psychiatrist, with the intention of having him under her physical control so she could do what she liked with him, including trying to kill him.

That psychiatrist, under whose care he had been, was Dr Matcheswalla, who had less a menacing and more a sort of teddy-bear reassuring demeanour about him. It was Dr Matcheswalla who admitted him for two months to the Masina Hospital, Byculla, south central Mumbai, according to Mekhail, in 2006.

Dr Matcheswalla, who kept the court waiting 15 to 20 minutes by arriving late, when he took the witness box on Thursday, filled in the details of that two-month episode of 12 years ago.

Attired in a suit of royal blue, a white shirt, black shoes, white socks, glasses, Dr Matcheswalla, 60, a bulky man of medium height, after holding up his hand and loudly swearing "in the name of god to tell the truth and nothing but the truth", was persuaded to offer an outline of the treatment Mekhail underwent.

The psychiatrist's witness box manner was as dramatic as his style of speaking -- he would listen to each question and then purposefully rotate himself 90 degrees to give his slow, measured reply to the judge, his answers were often illustrated with sweeping gestures of his hands. In between, he would pause to glug mineral water.

CBI Special Prosecutor Bharat B Badami began Dr Matcheswalla's testimony with standard queries about the psychiatrist's occupation, designation and appointments, which he gave in a precise tone.

It started off, thereafter, just for the first few minutes, smoothly.

Badami: "Do you know Indrani Mukerjea?"

Dr Matcheswalla: "Yes, I know Indrani Mukerjea."

Badami: "How you know Indrani Mukerjea?"

Dr Matcheswalla: "I have had an opportunity to treat her relative Mekhail Bora."

Badami: "You said treat Mekhail Bora. For what?"

Dr Matcheswalla paused, taking a deep breath, and did not initially answer citing pressures of confidentiality being a doctor.

Does a psychiatrist, before a judge, in an open courtroom, in a trial, need to offer confidential information about a patient he treated, who is neither the murder victim or the accused?

From that point onwards, Dr Matcheswalla's answers were not always the ones expected back, and at times pedantic and blustery.

Dr Matcheswalla was convinced to admit to the court that he had treated Mekhail for substance-induced psychosis in 2006 and that Indrani's son had been admitted to the Masina Hospital for two months and then was referred to a rehab centre in Pune, the Chaitanya Mental Health Care Center, Katraj.

That dealt with, Badami turned to Dr Matcheswalla and asked him: "What happened in 2012?"

The psychiatrist and the lawyers immediately took umbrage.

Pasbola: "How can you ask that?"

Dr Matcheswalla: "I get 100 calls a day." He suggested Badami be more specific and ask a question like; "Did you receive Sheena Bora's call?"

CBI Special Judge Jayendra Chandrasen Jagdale immediately scuttled that: "No, no, he can't. It is not permissible by law to ask leading questions (like that)."

Dr Matcheswalla didn't seem to get the concept of a 'leading question' and continued to argue over the next few minutes about the need for specific questions to be addressed to him and slowly began to irk both the lawyers and the judge with his insistence on a procedure in a courtroom, an arena in which he had no expertise.

Finally, he was herded into replying that he had received a call from Indrani Mukerjea (not Sheena Bora, his error) some time in 2012 saying that "the concerned relative (Mekhail Bora) was behaving aggressively" and he had suggested that liquid risdone be administered.

Continuing on in his distinctive wordy manner, Dr Matcheswalla said: "Risdone is an anti-psychotic medication which is regularly used by psychiatrists all over the world for the treatment of aggressive behaviour, abnormal behaviour, violence and psychosis."

Further, the psychiatrist added that he had received several calls on that particular night in 2012 -- the date he did not remember -- from Indrani Mukerjea, but he specified that "the last call was after midnight."

Mekhail had stated in his evidence that Indrani has been talking on the phone at 5 am on April 25, the night after Sheena's murder.

The calls were in relation he said "to the best of my memory" (a phrase the doctor leaned on throughout the hearing) in connection with the fact that a medication was not working.

Badami queried: "Not working to whom?"

Dr Matcheswalla's reply was critical. "At that time," he said, "she had mentioned Mekhail Bora. She had also mentioned Sheena's manner that she is behaving aggressive and unmanageable."

The psychiatrist said he advised Indrani "to give this particular medication risdone and to bring the person to Masina Hospital for advice."

He also clarified that after his earlier dealings with Indrani, when Mekhail was hospitalised he had not had that much interaction with her or Mekhail in the interim.

He had not seen either of them and there was intermittent communication between him and Indrani.

"She had called me a few times in relation to Mekhail and once sought advice regarding her hypertension."

He advised her to also take risdone for her hypertension which he termed "anxiety".

On Badami's questioning he said risdone was available at any chemist shop if one had a prescription and that he had "to the best of my memory have given a prescription to Indrani or her driver."

One wondered if this was a prescription for Mekhail or Indrani or whom. If it was for Indrani how could a prescription have been written for another patient he had not examined and been sent.

Risdone, he explained to the court, could be either had as a tablet if the person was willing to take it or ingested in liquid format as drops. "And it could be mixed in water, juice, sharbat, not in hot drinks like coffee or tea."

When asked to identify Indrani, Dr Matcheswalla, who evidently doesn't watch television or read newspapers/online publications said: "From whatever little I remember, it is the lady sitting behind."

Pasbola started off the cross examination asking a series of questions about how the psychiatric unit at Masina Hospital functioned.

The lawyer also determined and established that a patient who was admitted there was first evaluated on an outpatient basis, via a detailed process, before a decision was reached, with the help of senior psychiatrists, to admit him and that without that scientific evaluation a person could not reach a bed in the Masina psychiatric ward.

About 20 minutes was spent unearthing what happened to Mekhail's Masina Hospital medical records.

Apparently, Dr Matcheswalla explained, the hospital, in those days (2006), before total digitalisation had been introduced, kept the records of a patient for a period of five years and disposed of it thereafter.

So in 2015 when the police and CBI came looking for Mekhail's records Dr Matcheswalla was unable to help them though, strangely, as per his statement to the police he said he would help them.

Pasbola put it to the psychiatrist that that meant that the court had to rely only on his memory and word.

Dr Matcheswalla flatly refused to answer the question.

Pasbola re-requesting him: "Doctor please answer the question."

Dr Matcheswalla, adamant: "I have answered the question."

Pasbola, meeting his match facing the psychiatrist (professor vs professor), equally resolute: "You have not answered the question."

Dr Matcheswalla: "I have answered the question."

It went on like slow-motion ping-pong, as tedious as Theresa May negotiating the Brexit deal.

It emerged that the question offended Dr Matcheswalla. He said he had been called to the court as a witness for who he was and added firmly and loudly: "My word counts!"

The CBI had called Dr Matcheswalla to their office for questioning twice, the doctor confirmed. Dr Matcheswalla didn't remember the exact dates but said "Definitely after that fateful day in August 2015."

The advocate began querying Dr Matcheswalla about Mekhail's illness and the diagnosis.

Pasbola: "The history that was given to you of substance-induced psychosis..."

Dr Matcheswalla interrupted: "No, that was my diagnosis!"

Pabola: "Can this medical diagnosis be in common parlance (referred to) as drug abuse?"

Dr Matcheswalla: "No, a little more than that." He launched into a painstaking, lumbering, explanation that both the judge and Pasbola valiantly struggled to cut short, that it was more than drug abuse because for Mekhail the usage had caused him psychosis too.

"Sabko nahin hota hai. Har alcoholic ko liver cirrhosis nahin hota hai. Har cigarette smoker ko lung cancer nahin hota hai (It doesn' happen to everyone. Every alcoholic doesn’t get liver cirrhosis. Every smoker doesn't get lung cancer)..."

Digging on, Pasbola had the psychiatrist tell the court that the substance producing this psychosis in Mekhail was cannabis and nicotine. DR Matcheswalla disputed that it was anything more than "family" of cannabis, be it ganja or charas and that it was not narcotics.

He also stated strongly: "He was not habituated to drugs. He was not a drug addict. He was only a 15-16 year old boy. Cannabis induced psychosis."

He denied telling the police that narcotics was the issue too and maintained he had said cannabis and nicotine.

Pasbola checked with the doctor about the symptoms this psychosis produced.

Dr Matcheswalla, who called Pasbola from time to time "learned advocate", said it made individuals "Aggressive. Violent. Suspicious. Unrealistic."

Pasbola: "Under hallucinations?"

Dr Matcheswalla immediately dismissed that: "Hallucinations are different."

The judge smiled.

Pasbola verified that after a patient was discharged he was given all the instructions and facilities to continue on his course of treatment/medication from home.

He also ascertained that it was quite routine for a patient's relatives to be in touch with Dr Matcheswalla post discharge, especially if the patient was showing deterioration or any other problem.

Pasbola then delicately tiptoed into the topic of restraint: "Masina Hospital is a very reputed hospital and then there is your reputation but if a patient is admitted against his will are they tied up?"

Dr Matcheswalla reacted instantly: "Let us not use the word tied up!"

He then launched into a long description about the kinds of ill people ("homicidal, suicidal, grossly psychotic, severely manic") who were unable to make rational decisions about hospitalisation.

These individuals were extreme cases because they did not have the judgment or insight to realise they were ill had to be admitted against their wishes with the consent of their relatives.

Through much of this, Indrani, wearing Thursday a very Bengali style kurta-salwar ensemble of red and white, red chunni and red bindi, sat very, very still, listening intently.

Referring to India's old Mental Health Act and then the new one, Dr Matcheswalla took off on a lecture on the ways in which a person could be admitted against his wishes as per both acts.

Judge Jagdale mumbled, his brows knitted together, not sure what to make of his verbose witness: "Now we are in 2006 (the year Mekhail was admitted)."

Dr Matcheswalla continued on his monologue, all charged up, declaring that it was important to know the circumstances in which a person can be forcibly hospitalised or like "Parveen Babi who nobody cared for" people can die, old and senile in their homes.

When the late actress Parveen Babi's name was mentioned Pasbola had had enough and cut the psychiatrist short irately "talking Parveen Babi and all!"

Dr Matcheswalla: "Learn something sir!"

Both the judge and Pasbola then hustled Dr Matcheswalla back onto course with Pasbola asking if Mekhail belonged to the category of patients who resisted hospitalisation and did not agree to be admitted or remain in the hospital.

Dr Matcheswalla said that to "the best of my memory" he was not uncooperative. "He was cooperative."

Pasbola: "But was he admitted against his will?"

Dr Matcheswalla suddenly dug his heels in: "Minors don't give consent."

Pasbola asked again.

"Minors don't give consent. Sorry sir. Minors don't give consent," adding that they would not be in a position to make that decision, rambling further, "God forbid tera ya mera beta ko hota (if it happened to your son or mine) then what would we do)..."

Pasbola grimaced and swiftly pushed the cross examination along, getting once more to the issue of Mekhail reporting being tied up.

That set Dr Matcheswalla off all over, who spoke about what psychiatric patients generally wanted and why hospitals all over the world had patients under lock and key and then roundly told Pasbola that it was referred to as physical restraint and chemical restraint.

Pasbola exaggeratedly: "Thank you."

Dr Matcheswalla: "Tie is a crude word."

Pasbola patiently enunciated: "Did you ever see him 'physically or chemically restrained'?"

Dr Matcheswalla, perhaps forgetting his censure of half a second earlier: "As far as I remember I never saw him physically tied up."

The lawyer then moved the discussion to Mekhail's treatment at the Pune rehab place.

While Dr Matcheswalla was answering, Pasbola interrupted him to ask the judge if they could continue the cross-examination the next day since it was already 5 o'clock and he needed another half an hour or so more.

The psychiatrist was willing to continue and finish on Thursday, although he muttered something about it being "Sone ke time hai (time to sleep)" Chai mil jaati (if I get tea) then I can go on..."

He said he did not want to come the next afternoon too because his whole day got shot to pieces on Thursday.

Pointing to Badami and the other CBI Special Prosecutor Kavita Patil, who looked taken aback: "They told me to come at 11 am. Ghoom rahein hai (Been wandering around). GT Hospital. Idhar udhar (here and there). Missed my OPD."

Noon, Tuesday, January 22 was chosen to complete Yusuf Matcheswala's cross examination.

There is a possibility that Accused 2, Vidhie's dad Sanjeev Khanna's lawyers would also examine him briefly given that the psychiatrist crucially also mentioned that Mekhail was brought for admission in 2006 by Indrani and Sohail Buddha. Not Sanjeev Khanna, as Mekhail had said.

The psychiatrist stepped down from the witness box, taking a bit of rest in a chair. Pasbola, under Badami's amused gaze, came across to shake Dr Matcheswalla's hand. The psychiatrist's assistant stopped Pasbola for a visiting card, who said he had none ("These days, who carried cards!").

Five minutes later, Dr Matcheswalla departed with his assistant, the doctor exiting behind the lawyer. The lawyer moved swiftly. The doctor, who has an unusual gait, progressed, like royalty.

Badami, who was sitting on a bench outside, nodded his head in approval, and told a colleague, "He is a celebrity."

Vaihayasi Pande Daniel / Rediff.com