CBI’s new mission: It must make sense of a nebulous case amid politicisation, with a questionable record to boot

The Supreme Court ordered CBI probe into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death follows an unsavoury jurisdictional wrangle. Mumbai police, inquiring into his death without lodging an FIR, took exception to Patna police registering an FIR after Sushant’s father alleged malfeasance on Rhea Chakraborty’s part. SC has ruled Patna police justified in lodging the FIR and Bihar government in transferring the probe to CBI over Maharashtra’s objections. By putting CBI in complete charge, SC has ensured multiple probes won’t further vitiate a nebulous situation.

From a tragic suicide of a promising young actor that kickstarted a robust debate on Bollywood nepotism, Sushant’s death has taken a life of its own. It is being used to settle scores, posit conspiracy theories and become politicised prompting Bihar government, facing elections soon, and central government to get involved. The postmortem report points to suicide but Sushant’s family have pinned on Rhea the problematic abetment to suicide charge that makes no allowances for suicidal behaviour apart from alleged financial embezzlement. With Sushant not around, it boils down to his girlfriend’s words against his family’s. This case certainly doesn’t fit the mould of serious crimes requiring CBI probe like custodial torture or corruption, of which there are dime a dozen in India.

Unlike the Aarushi murder, a clearcut crime it still muddled, CBI treads a grey area here with averments to be made between suicide and criminality. Stigma over mental illness, Bollywood intrigue, family honour and political machinations further blur the lines. Once dubbed Centre’s “caged parrot” by SC, there is little to suggest CBI has more expertise in such cases than a metropolitan unit like Mumbai police. Given today’s surcharged atmosphere  – Chhattisgarh police have booked Facebook’s public policy head – multiple states could start pursuing politicised cases. Several people have been maligned. Fairness to Sushant and them demands a quick and conclusive probe.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.