Having striven for thirteen years to bring the killers of Canada-based doctor Asha Goel to book, the Goels are now tired: tired of exhorting the Indian and Canadian authorities to nail the killers, tired of flying back and forth between Canada and Mumbai, tired of waiting for the trial to begin.
But the long years, during which Asha’s family has made 73 visits to India to pursue the case, haven’t shaken their resolve.
If justice delayed is justice denied, the Goels have been denied it ever since August 23, 2003, when Asha, 60, was found brutally murdered in an apartment in Malabar Hill. She had come down to visit her ailing brother Suresh Agarwal.
The crime branch, which took over the case from Malabar Hill police, had filed a charge-sheet according to which Asha was killed over a property feud.Four persons were arrested — Pawankumar Goenka, Manohar Shinde, Pradeep Parab, and Suresh Agarwal’s son-in-law Narendra; all are out on bail.
“When the crime branch put the accused behind bars,we thought my mother would get justice. But it was only the start of a long struggle. Instead of making the case watertight, the police asked us to meet politicians, activists and others who could help in the case. We wondered what our role is in strengthening the case, but we went and met everyone because we want justice,” said 52-year-old Sanjay Goel, Asha’s eldest son, who lives in Vancouver.
Her family has worked tirelessly to ensure the case remains open and active. “We have to spend tens of lakhs on flights and legal aid, staying in hotels each time we have come to Mumbai,” said Sanjay, who runs a cruise touring and travel agency.
He said the family has to battle an extremely dilatory system to push the case forward. “We have to file a petition in the high court to move the case along. Even for DNA testing, which was not done in Mumbai around 2003.” The sleuths had recovered blood-stained clothes from two of the accused, Goenka and Parab. “Chief inspector of Mumbai police’s crime branch, Jayawant Hargude, took the samples to Toronto for DNA testing, and we paid for the expenses as per court order,” he said.
The family found a faint ray of hope when, after years of struggle, on June 9, 2014, the high court directed that trial be completed within six months. But the trial has not even commenced. “The continual delay has been contributed to by the defence’s stalling tactics,” said Michael Alper, Asha’s son-in-law.
During this time, Suresh Agarwal, also accused in the case, died of a kidney ailment. Suresh’s brother Subhash, who resided in Canada and is also an accused, is said to be absconding. But Sanjay thinks otherwise: “My uncle Subhash is not absconding, he is in Canada. Canadian cops are not arresting him, they told us that the crime took place in India so they can’t do anything. This is ridiculous.”
“It’s not just the Indian investigating authorities. I also blame Ottawa police for not helping us,” said Sanjay. Urging law enforcement agencies in both the countries to cooperate in the investigation. “Canadian authorities have a critical role to play in the case resolution, and we request them to carry out their own full investigation so the whole truth is uncovered, whether the evidence is in India or in Canada. We requested them to place pressure on the Indian authorities to see this case through” Said Alper, “We need justice. The crime branch provided enough evidence which proved that my mother was killed, but the accused are yet to be punished.”
The family has left no avenue untouched in their search for justice. They started an online petition asking for speedy trial, and some 10,000 people have signed it so far.
73rd time unlucky
Alper and Sanjay, who find themselves halfway across the globe, in Mumbai, yet again to follow up on the case, have made a fresh application to the court, seeking to start the trial. “This is our 73rd visit to India to meet cops and lawyers,” said Sanjay. “Earlier I used to visit with my father, Sadan Goel. He is 80 years old now and cannot travel all the way to Mumbai, but he keeps asking me, ‘When will your mother get justice?'” Sadan Goel continues to stay in Toronto.
“My mother was a doctor. She saved so many lives. She doesn’t deserve such a death,” Sanjay added sombrely.
Asha had moved to Canada with her husband in 1963, where they completed their medical training and raised their three children. They stayed in Toronto, and she practised obstetrics and gynaecology for 40 years in Saskatchewan and in Ontario.
After Asha Goel’s death, the disputed Malabar Hill property was sealed. “The Malabar hill property is worth Rs 20 crore. My mother was never keen on taking her share. She was in Mumbai to tell Suresh and Subhash Agarwal to give the share to their younger brother, Shekhar, which they were hesitant to do,” Sanjay said.
But it isn’t that the family isn’t grateful for the help they have got from Indian cops “I would like to thank Rakesh Maria, formerly of the crime branch, Meeran Borvankar and investigating officer Hargude. Because of them, the conspiracy came to light,” said Alper, an advocate who practises in the US.