Mumbai: After her loyal, and somewhat presumptuous party members brought Thane to a screeching standstill by staging a bandh and moved court alleging the hand of a rival political party in her disappearance, Suhasini Lokhande slipped back into Thane on Tuesday, even as a public hearing ensued over her mysterious 'abduction'.
Lokhande's disappearance on February 24, days before the mayoral elections in Thane, had generated fierce speculation, with the BJP-Sena conducting a violent bandh, and approaching the Bombay High Court through a Habeas Corpus (produce the body) petition, demanding that the police produce Lokhande.
The petition had been filed on Monday by the president of BJP's Thane unit, alleging the involvement of NCP leader Jitendra Avhad in Lokhande's disappearance. The appeal made the allegation that the corporator and her family - who could not be traced since February 24 - had been abducted by the rival party, so she could not cast her vote in the crucial and closely-contested Thane mayoral election. The brouhaha over Lokhande's disappearance, however, was brought to naught on Tuesday, when Lokhande turned up at her residence, even as the hearing was in progress.
At the hearing, Assistant Public Prosecutor Poornima Kantharia intimated the court that the police was carrying out an intensive investigation, and had even travelled to Lonavla in search of the family. Advocate Ram Apte, who was representing the BJP, however, alleged that Lokhande's son Sanket, who had also gone missing with his mother, had arrived in the morning for his board exam in a police jeep. "If the police can trace her son, then why not her? It amounts to a failure of the police machinery. It is surprising that the media can interview her but the police cannot trace her," he argued.
Apte was referring to Lokhande's telephonic interview to a regional TV channel on Sunday, where she had revealed that she was 'sick' and had accompanied her family to a temple. She had also emphasised that she was still loyal to her party, and would return in time to vote for the mayoral election.
After considering the arguments made by both sides, the division bench, comprising Justices VM Kanade and PD Kode decided to wait till 3 pm to see if the 'missing' woman would turn up. The police were also asked to question Lokhande's son Sanket, once his exams were completed.
After the court-ordered wait for Lokhande was concluded at 3 pm, the case came up for hearing once again at about 4 pm. It was then that Kantharia informed the court that Suhasini had been 'found'. Consequently, the court disposed of the matter. Kantharia vehemently argued that heavy costs be imposed on the petitioner for wasting state resources, a request which was not granted by the court.
What is habeas corpus?
The expression Habeas Corpus is a Latin term that means 'produce the body'. It is a writ petition filed under article 226 of the Constitution of India, to direct police to produce any person before the Court. The writ is used to release persons who are being unlawfully detained by police, to recover kidnapped or missing persons. In some cases it is used by husbands or wives seeking to recover custody of children who have been taken away from them.