'There is a communication between Rahul Mukerjea and Sheena Bora.'
'First on the 26th. And then on the 27th and then on the 28th.'
'See the messages wherein Rahul Mukerjea tells Sheena Bora "Baba I am in the car park. Come".'
'And Sheena Bora replies to Rahul Mukerjea: "Five min bas".'
'This explains why none of the bodies matched Sheena Bora...'
Vaihayasi Pande Daniel reports from the Sheena Bora Murder Trial.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com
Was Sheena Bora alive for at least five months after April 24, 2012, the terrible day she was supposedly murdered eight years ago?
When did she really die?
Did she not die on April 24, 2012, about two months after her 25th birthday?
How long was she alive for after that date?
Is she dead?
Who killed Sheena Bora?
A new set of stark, urgent questions.
Similar questions have arisen before, at regular intervals in this case, where so little makes any sense, even after three years in court, and five years since the investigation -- a situation, I am told, repeatedly, cynically, is true of umpteen cases in court.
These questions arose -- startingly -- again, after the bombshell revelations Indrani Mukerjea, Accused No 1 in the Sheena Bora murder case, made on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, in her rejoinder to the prosecution's reply to her bail application, at Courtroom 51, Mumbai city civil and sessions court, near the majestic Mumbai University, south Mumbai.
As this case proceeds the questions seem to keep multiplying profusely. And the answers -- the truth -- get scarcer and scarcer.
Indrani was on Tuesday wearing a snowy kurta and churidar, with dark yellow embroidered etching and a fluffy white chunni with brown mojris-like shoes. Her hair was parted sideways in a wispy ponytail.
Indrani, who is rail-thin, looked extra waif-like and delicate, as she logically argued her case once again in the witness stand.
Her frail appearance was, as always, in complete contrast to her Woman of Substance demeanour.
She has the limitless capacity to climb up and out from behind the stacks of odds piled up toweringly, loftily, against her, like giant columns of Legos, to, with undiminished bravado, fight another day.
Like her. Love her. Hate her. Feel what you must. But Indrani, like the meaning of her name, defines strength.
Once again one can only apply some of the same kinds of adjectives to her outings in the box to argue her bail application, that very few do: Articulate. Courageous. Steely strong. Persistent. Moving.
A few lawyers, not related to this case, who were waiting their turn for their own matters, across the two hours she spoke, listened to her transfixed. One of them, a senior man, nodded, almost in applause, every time she made a hard-hitting point.
Clearly, she was quite good at it.
He later said: "She looks like she has practiced (as a lawyer) for years!"
Initially, Indrani rewound a few points she had made before about the circumstantial evidence against her, after she was "arrested obviously on grounds of conspiracy" touching once again on the various facts that together made the "the chain of circumstances in the prosecution's case."
She ticked off, emphatically, one by one, the glaring non-links in the unperfect chain:
"Hatching of conspiracy -- no evidence."
"Car booking and collection -- there is no evidence. The reason I again keep emphasising on the car because if the allegation is that the murder happened in the car -- that is their story -- so the car is very crucial. If the car is not the same car or the car was not there, then the whole prosecution's story is over!"
With a touch of humour: "Now purchase of all the items as claimed by the prosecution that I went and bought saris. I went and bought -- I can't even remember -- I went and bought gloves, ropes and all", had been proved false by the Call Data Records. "No evidence that I even I moved out of home (that day)." And she added there are calls to/from her at home at Worli, south central Mumbai.
"So now the presence of Mekhail Bora (her son from her first relationship who alleged she had tried to kill him too) on April 24 -- not been established."
"Presence of A2 (Sanjeev Khanna, her former husband) in Bandra again is not established (via CDRs)."
While speaking about A2's alleged role in the crime Indrani made it a point to add, like she did last time, for both him and Peter Mukerjea, little facts showing their possible lack of connection to the crime too.
Tuesday she added that the CDRs had shown that A2 was "constantly in Worli" in his Worli, south central Mumbai hotel from 6 pm April 24th, till the next morning. And had not ventured to Bandra to kill Sheena as per the prosecution's charge.
Continuing with the lousy-chain-evidence argument: "Nobody saw me and Sheena Bora in Bandra on the 24."
"No evidence that Sheena Bora herself was in Bandra on the 24th."
"The CDRs of A1, A2 and, A3 (Shyamvar Pinturam Rai, approver and former Mukerjea driver), provided by prosecution, do not support their (prosecution) story."
"No circumstantial evidence that Rahul Mukerjea was in Bandra at all on the 24th."
Speaking about the body found in Pen, Raigad district, she said "cause of death not homicidal", as per the experts's views.
She spoke about the two different bodies and how the first, after discovery and post mortem, was supposed to have been buried in a grave over five feet deep.
In August 2015 the "second" body was found in a grave just 18 inches deep.
"A body cannot come UP on its own."
"So again the link (in the chain of circumstances) is broken. Again for the story they are trying to create there is no link."
Most of these were old grounds, that she was covering again and re-stressing because that is Indrani's way, she likes to rub a point in thoroughly, meticulously, leaving no doubts or stones unturned.
But she then made four brand-new points.
They were astonishing. If not jaw-dropping.
"It is factually incorrect to say that Sheena Bora was not alive after 24th April 2012, as claimed by the prosecution. Because the prosecution's claims are not supported by the text-SMS records of Rahul Mukerjea, that they have provided, that Sheena Bora was not physically in the same place and not in contact with Rahul Mukerjea."
There was silence in court and the sound of even a Rs 100 note, let alone a penny, dropping would have been deafening.
She explained that the same SMS-text evidence the prosecution relied on to charge her with Sheena Bora's murder showed that Sheena Bora was alive after April 24.
She elaborated that initially when she was going through Rahul Mukerjea's CDRs she was looking for evidence of Sheena's messages closer to April 2012 for the longest time.
She then decided to plough through the 4,000 odd messages, some of them five-six months later and she found evidence of messages between Rahul and Sheena on September 26, 27 and 28, 2012.
Drawing the judge's attention to the transcript of the messages that she had attached to her 141-page bail rejoinder (Please note: 141 pages), she said:
"There is a communication between Rahul Mukerjea and Sheena Bora. First on the 26th. And then on the 27th and then on the 28th. But what is particular to this, see the messages wherein Rahul Mukerjea tells Sheena Bora 'Baba I am in the car park. Come'."
"And Sheena Bora replies to Rahul Mukerjea: "Five min bas (only)'."
"And then he says: 'Jaldi chalo (come quickly)'."
"This explains why none of the bodies matched Sheena Bora... Nobody can say that Indrani Mukerjea sent these messages to Rahul Mukerjea because Indrani Mukerjea was in England at that time."
Alluding to the nature of the messages where Rahul Mukerjea is sitting in a parking lot actually waiting for Sheena, if Indrani had sent the messages, if "Indrani Mukerjea walks down, it is not possible (instead of Sheena)!", her always mobile face a study of liveliness.
She went on: "So there are only two explanations. Either Sheena Bora's phone was with Rahul Mukerjea in September 2012 or Sheena Bora was with Rahul Mukerjea in September 2012."
CBI Special Judge Jayendra Chandrasen Jagdale with a half smile: "You mean Rahul Mukerjea is the proper person to ask?"
He said something to the effect that this argument would only come out after they had examined Rahul Mukerjea.
Judge Jagdale, a man of infinite patience, listened to Indrani carefully, cautiously and keenly on Tuesday. His face did not react to her assertions, though at times some mixed feelings seemed to quietly tread across it. He often gently explained points to her and guided her arguments back on track.
Further: Indrani had earlier spoken about how she was implicated for Sheena's murder because of the "last seen" angle. In the age of technology/electronics and cell phones, the physical last seen was no longer the most important entity. She had been implicated by a text message from Sheena to Rahul that she was staying with Indrani for the night and would return the next morning.
But Rahul being with Sheena in September 2012 disproves her culpability as the person "last seen/last communicating" with Sheena and she did not think they could oppose her bail if she was not the person last seen/last in contact with Sheena Bora.
Her arguing of this point brought some satisfaction to Indrani who looked pleased and happy with herself after concluding her arguments on it.
She coaxed the court clerks Ujjwala, and her assistant, to pull out the first supplementary charge sheet from 2016.
They hunted about a bit looking for it.
Finally, they pulled out a sheaf of papers and amazingly, from as far as the stand Indrani with a "Haa, woh hai (that's it), correct!" was able to identify it.
Part of it seemed to be a December 2015 bill for the purchase of medicines from the Rakhangi Medical Stores near her home.
But she told the judge more important than the date -- because she was in judicial custody at the time -- was to see the name and address on it.
It was a bill for liquid Risdone, an antipsychotic medicine used for mood disorders. The name of the prescribing doctor was Mumbai psychiatrist Dr Y A Matcheswalla (Prosecution Witness 28 who appeared in the witness box last January) and had treated various members of the family including Mekhail, Sheena and Indrani). The name of the patient was Rahul from Worli.
"I don't know any other Rahul from Worli, who is connected with this case, unless prosecution can bring someone else, who is a Rahul from Worli who went to Dr Matcheswalla and took a prescription and bought it! I was in judicial custody. They cannot blame me for it?!"
She went on in excitement, her voice rising, underlining each word, "My point, Your Honour, is why would a Rahul from Worli go to Dr Matcheswalla? Get a prescription for liquid Risdone? While I was in judicial custody? Why a Rahul from Worli? Why liquid Risdone? From Rakhangi Medical Stores. If a Rahul from Worli can buy liquid Risdone, then that Rahul from Worli could buy Risdone from anywhere."
Indrani wondered if the said Rahul from Worli was buying Risdone for the purpose of planting bottles of Risdone and "aiding and abetting the prosecution", possibly, she said, to cover his tracks.
Taking off her reading glasses, she looked directly at Judge Jagdale and said she was not asking for bail on the basis of this, but was lining up certain facts for him.
Risperdone sold under the brand name Risdone, as per the prosecution's case had been the drug Indrani was supposed to have used on Sheena and Mekhail to drug her or maybe calm her/arrest aggression on April 24, 2012.
There was e-mail back-and-forth between Peter and Rahul about the rental agreement that Rahul and Sheena had with the Machados, the landlords for the flat they were renting, together, in Andheri East, north west Mumbai, and its cancellation by sending a letter by courier.
Earlier, as per other witnesses who have deposed already -- like Indrani's secretary Kajal Sharma and peon Pradeep Waghmare, it was indicated, Indrani pointed out, that Indrani had organised the cancellation of the leave and license agreement with Melanie and Domnic Machado.
And the Machados testified that the courier with the cancellation letter came from Assam from Mekhail Bora!
But in court on Tuesday, Indrani read out bits and pieces of this e-mail correspondence: "There is an e-mail which has gone from Rahul Mukerjea... On 6th of August Rahul Mukerjea writes to Peter Mukerjea: 'Above are the email IDs of the landlords. They require a letter from Sheena that she is no longer occupying the residence' and contract will be terminated. Please also mention that the security deposit is to be returned."
Rahul goes onto to explain that this needs to be done because the landlords are worried that Sheena would "turn up" wanting her share of the deposit, but Rahul said he told them in the e-mail, Indrani read: "that won't be likely" Why? How does Rahul Mukerjea know she is not there?"
In Peter's reply, he said, 'I am getting this matter sorted... It will done by tomorrow evening and you will get a call from Melanie confirming receipt of the letter... Blue Dart courier company has confirmed that the courier delivery will be made tomorrow'.
Indrani declared these e-mails showed that Peter was "taking the onus" of having the leave and license agreement cancelled and that what the prosecution put on record about her activities vis a vis the flat are "completely contradictory."
And this information was all suppressed in the bid to make a case against her.
Towards the end of her arguments Indrani again referred on Tuesday to her belief that she had been framed -- "this case was framed against me" -- and that she had evidence of that.
After her arrest she said money had been transferred from her account: "Forget about the flat and forget about the jewellery. Over Rs 7 crores. Actually not Rs 7 crores, that's a lie. About Rs 6 crores was transferred from my account into the accounts of A4, Rabin Mukerjea (Peter's eldest son who lives in the UK) and Rahul Mukerjea."
She said she and Peter had been married 16 years and they shared accounts and she had no reason not to trust him till this happened.
Indrani explained she got to know about it when it came to the notice of the "IT people" and that this was the total sum transferred together from accounts in India, UK and New Zealand. "So there is a motive."
In addition to these four points, Indrani spent time refuting many of the earlier case citations CBI Special Prosecutor Manoj Chaladan had used against her to counter her bail plea.
Analysing each citation, Indrani showed how each one could not apply to her.
Either the person had been a terrorist or a larger criminal. Indrani's reaction: "He was a threat to the well-being of the society at large. If I am released on bail, am I a threat to society? I am not. Not applicable to me."
Judge Jagdale gave her a long, serious look, nothing more.
Or the person got bail even though the investigation and chargesheet were not complete. Indrani implored: "Why is it not applicable to my bail application on merit? After four-and-a-half years (in judicial custody)?"
In another citation, the person had fled the country. Indrani pointed out that "after the alleged crime in April 2012 I came back 19 times to India", even though she had enough assets to live abroad, without the need to return. "That itself proves my innocence."
Indrani once again brought up the fact that there were hundreds of witnesses and not even 65 were through.
Did she need to wait for the balance 189 to be done, after four-and-a-half years in custody, to get bail?
The judge asked Chaladan how many witnesses were there and how many he intended to call.
Chaladan: "253." And he planned to call: "30-40."
Indrani: "Maybe even 100. We don't know. They keep saying that Rahul Mukerjea will be next." And use that grounds to deny her bail
Indrani: "The previous prosecutor (Ejaz Khan) said Rahul Mukerjea is the next witness."
Judge Jagdale: "The prosecutor has changed."
Indrani: "How do I know he will not change!"
The judge, implying the flux-like nature of the legal landscape: "I do not know if I am going to change or not."
While closing her plea, Indrani said most of the prosecution's story was "gone", with respect to the different skulls and bodies.
She solemnly announced she would never flee justice. In any case her passport was with the court.
"I don't want to flee justice, Your Honour."
She added in an emotion-laden, passionate tone, often placing her hand on her heart, "I personally believe I have given you enough grounds to grant me bail... Thank you so much."
There it is: Indrani in her own words.
As I close my nearly 160th report on this trial, after studying Indrani for 120 minutes on Tuesday, I know less than I knew when I filed the first report in February 2017.