After 2-year struggle, SC comes to Deonar family’s aid

Almost two years after their son’s death, a Deonar-based family finally received a ray of hope as the Supreme Court has directed the police to register an FIR in the suicide case of 24-year-old Manav Lalwani. The deceased’s family alleges that his woman friend had abetted the suicide.

Manav’s kin has written several applications to the police seeking that she be booked. The legal battle, which began at a metropolitan magistrate court, eventually reached the apex court. On the night of December 2, 2021, Manav hanged himself on the terrace of the bungalow in which he resided with his family. He had gone to dinner with a woman friend at the Chembur Gymkhana and returned late.

The Trombay police subsequently filed an accidental death report (ADR) in connection with the incident. Manav’s father Prakash Lalwani, a dealer in electronic goods, then wrote an application to the then-Mumbai police commissioner seeking that an FIR be registered against the friend for abetting the suicide.

“My whole family was shattered. Nobody believes he took such a drastic step. He was not facing a single problem. His business was doing well. The family was also doing well. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever to take his own life but there was this female friend who compelled him to do so,” said Prakash Lalwani. “I had decided to get justice for my son and my family as long as I was alive,” he added.

Manav Lalwani’s residence in Deonar

Lalwani had filed an application in Kurla Metropolitan Magistrate Court seeking that the Trombay police station be directed to register an FIR. But the metropolitan magistrate had opined that no investigation was necessary and it would suffice if directions were issued and directed Lalwani to produce more evidence in support of his complaint.

The family alleged that the woman friend had deleted conversations with Manav on WhatsApp, and it was virtually impossible to retrieve the chat and collect the necessary evidence. A criminal revision application was filed before the sessions court requesting the setting aside of the impugned order and directing the Trombay police to register an FIR under Section 306 (abetment of suicide) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The police resisted the revision application on the grounds that they had recorded the statement of the complainant (father) after the incident during which he had not expressed suspicion towards anyone. Secondly, they seized the mobile phone of the woman and also took screenshots of the last chat. She had made a statement that Manav had made some unwelcome physical advances, and when she resisted, some dispute arose between them.

In January 2023, based on submissions, the sessions court directed cops to file the FIR, but the family of the woman rushed to the Bombay High Court and got a stay on the order. Not losing hope, the deceased’s family decided to go to the Supreme Court as a last hope. “We were hopeful that the Supreme Court would serve us justice. In May 2023, we approached the apex court and the verdict came out within four months,” said Lalwani.

The Supreme Court on September 27 passed the order ordering the Trombay cops to register an FIR against Manav’s friend. Justice M M Sundresh and Justice Sanjay Kumar observed, “We are inclined to interfere with the impugned order for the sole reason that at this stage, merits are not expected to be gone into, when a cognisable offence is made out. Therefore, the learned magistrate ought to have directed the investigating agency to register the case and thereafter proceed with the investigation.”

“In such view of the matter, we are inclined to set aside the impugned order by restoring the order passed by the court of sessions. The Mumbai Police is directed to register the case for the offence under Section 306 of the IPC and thereafter proceed to investigate the matter.

However, taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case, we are inclined to grant protection to the woman and her father to the effect that they shall not be arrested. Needless to say, they shall cooperate with the investigation,” the verdict read. “After the order of sessions court in 2023, we believed we would get justice but again the legal battle delayed it. The Supreme Court of India has given us some hope. Now we are hopeful that the Trombay cops will do some investigation,” Lalwani added.

Dec 2
Night in 2021 when suicide occurred

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