In yet another twist in the Sheena Bora murder case, former media baron Peter Mukerjea has been charged under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai, Maharashtra. He has also been charged under Sections 120 B (criminal conspiracy), 306 (Abetment of suicide) and 363 (kidnapping) of the IPC.
The investigators told the court that both Peter and Indrani had strong objections to the relationship between Sheena and Rahul.
The CBI officials informed the court that Peter was in contact with Indrani during the timeframe of the murder. He allegedly had all the information about Indrani's intentions and execution of the murder.
Sources said that conflicting statements by Indrani during the questioning led to Peter's arrest. After hearing both the sides, court sent Peter Mukerjea to CBI custody till 23 November.
The CBI, on 19 November, arrested Peter under Section 201 (causing the disappearance of evidence of offence, or providing false information).
Meanwhile, Indrani Mukerjea, Shyamvar Rai and Sanjeev Khanna's judicial custody has been extended till 3 December.
The CBI, on 20 November, questioned Peter's son Rahul Mukerjea for over 12 hours in Mumbai.
Who is Peter Mukerjea?
Peter Mukerjea was chief executive of Star India from 1997 to 2007 before he left to start his own television venture. He is seen as one of India's most successful media magnates.
According to media reports, the CBI has observed that Peter knew about Sheena's murder and that he played an active role in the crime.
Mukerjea's defence lawyer has claimed that he was in London when the crime took place. But the CBI refuted the claims saying that the media baron was very much in India when Sheena was murdered on 24 April, 2012.
Did phone calls nail Peter?
According to media reports, the Additional Solicitor General will appear in court for the CBI. The central agency wants custody of Peter to verify the financial angle in the case. The CBI has sought a 14-day remand.
The CBI also suspects that Peter was aware of the murder. His call records have revealed that he contacted Indrani during the time-frame of the crime.
Peter had also told Rahul Mukerjea that Sheena was alive and in the US, despite knowing about her murder.
Peter Mukerjea's counsel has, however, argued that one call recording does not reveal a conspiracy. He has also claimed that Peter was only trying to pacify Rahul.
The next hearing in the case is reportedly on 3 December.
How the case unfolded
Peter's wife Indrani Mukerjea was arrested in August this year, days after their driver Shyamvar Rai was arrested in connection with the murder of Sheena Bora.
Sheena was allegedly strangled in 2012 by Indrani, her ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai.
According to media reports, Peter was arrested after Indrani's conflicting statements led the CBI to believe that he was aware of the plot to kill his step-daughter.
Important developments in the case so far:
- CBI: Peter knew that Sheena was dead, however he informed Rahul that she was residing in the US.
- The CBI in its report has dedicated 20 pages to the financial angle in the murder case.
- On 19 November, a forensic team of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) confirmed that the remains found in Raigad forest in 2012 belonged to Sheena Bora. The AIIMS forensic team had conducted three tests to prove that the charred remains belonged t Sheena.
- The case has also brought the Mumbai Police under scanner. Earlier, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Rakesh Maria, who was criticised by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for his undue interest in the case, was abruptly promoted and transferred by the Maharashtra government. He was replaced by Ahmad Javed, and the case was transferred to the CBI.
- Peter's arrest is significant as it finally seeks to connect the dots on the financial motives behind Sheena's sudden disappearance in 2012.