At 42, Sheetal Bhatia is a woman in search of her true identity, and of the man she had till a few years ago addressed as ‘grandfather’. She has now knocked on the doors of the state’s highest court, demanding justice for herself and her mother.
In her petition, Sheetal claims Dr Ramesh Bhatia — founder of Bhatia Hospital in Bhandup — who is legally her grandfather, is in fact her biological father. She has alleged that she is the product of an illicit union between Dr Ramesh and her mother “My mother married Dr Ramesh’s son Ranjit in 1970. He suffered from epilepsy, but was forced to tie the knot. Dr Ramesh took undue advantage of the situation and sexually abused my mother. She kept quiet about the harassment to avoid humiliation.”
Ranjit passed away in 1991, and Sheetal claims this gave free rein to Dr Ramesh’s torments. When she was around 30, Sheetal grew suspicious and realised the true colours of her ‘grandfather’. “I used to question my mother about her life. However, she always discouraged me, saying that my father was now dead and everything was in Dr Ramesh’s hands,” she added. In May 1998, when her relatives had gone to attend a function at a relative’s house in Borivli, Sheetal claims Dr Ramesh tried to molest her. When she narrated the incident to her aunt Sulekha, the latter allegedly threatened and warned her not to inform anyone about what had happened, or she would be killed.
On October 16, 2012, Sheetal sent Dr Ramesh a legal notice, alleging she was his biological daughter and asked him to take a DNA test. The October 23 reply of the notice was apparently silent on the question of Sheetal’s paternity. Dr Shailesh Bhatia, Dr Ramesh’s son, allegedly called her to his office and warned her not to continue with any legal proceedings, as the family had power and influence. He allegedly offered a flat to her to keep her quiet, but Sheetal says she declined, as she was keener on figuring out her identity.
“Since February, I am being followed by some unknown persons and there is a threat to my life. I am afraid of being harmed,” Sheetal added. Despite written complaints to the police, she says no action has been taken. Her petition before the High Court is slated for hearing on April 12. She has asked the court to order Dr Ramesh to undergo a DNA test to ascertain her paternity.
The other side
Sheetal’s aunt Sulekha Bhatia said, “A person who would demean her own mother for the sake of money is sick. All this is being done for wealth and for property. If she claims Dr Ramesh is her biological father, we are ready for a DNA test. Even though she was making money as a teacher, she never gave the family a single rupee — not even to her mother. All her needs were taken care of by Dr Ramesh. She used to regularly take money from him. Recently, she withdrew Rs 3 lakh out of Rs 7 lakh from a PPF account set aside in her name by Dr Ramesh, which we suspect is going to be used for legal fees. She has alleged that Dr Bhatia, who is now 88 years old, tried to molest her. How is that possible?”
When contacted, Dr Ramesh Bhatia said, “I have nothing to say about the matter.” Dr Shailesh Bhatia, Dr Ramesh’s son, said, “All her allegations are false. We have nothing to say on the topic.” (MD)