The timecode in the video shows it is after 11 pm on April 20, 2019. Four people are seen in the video – a younger couple and an older couple. They are all arguing. Suddenly, the younger man violently pushes the woman – his wife – and hits her. He pushes her onto a couch. As the woman gets up to respond, an older man tries to stop her by the arm and pushes her back onto the couch. He is seen aggressively speaking to her. Meanwhile, a toddler is seen in the video, clutching at her mother’s leg. Another woman then enters the room. They drag the younger woman off the couch onto the floor, as her daughter watches on, helpless and confused. The woman's other child also comes into the room to see what is happening, but her father tells her to go back to her room.
This shocking CCTV footage of domestic violence allegedly by retired Hyderabad High Court Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao, his wife and his son against his daughter-in-law has surfaced, strengthening the survivor’s allegations of harassment. Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao worked in the Hyderabad High Court and in the Madras High Court before he retired in 2017. In April this year, Sindhu Sharma had alleged that Justice (Retd) Ramamohana Rao, his wife Nooty Durga Jaya Laxmi, and their son – her husband Nooty Vasista – had beaten her up demanding dowry.
"My husband used to assault me frequently and make demands for dowry. But like in other abusive marriages, I would bear the violence. That night, my in-laws, kids and my husband had gone for a movie. They came back in the night and my husband came to the room upstairs where I was sleeping and started assaulting me, saying he wasn't getting promoted in his job because of me," Sindhu narrated to TNM.
When the abuse became severe, she yelled for help. Sindhu alleges that her in-laws, who rushed into the room, started assaulting her, instead of helping her.
In another video, the family drags Sindhu out, to the car. It is 15 minutes before midnight. She looks tired and weak and is holding on to her family’s hands for support. She is led to a car and the former judge is seen running a hand over her head. Sindhu is made to sit inside one of the two cars seen in the video. The family members look agitated, passing on some instructions to one another. Sindhu’s toddler child is seen watching the events unfold in front of her in confusion. Someone not seen in the video is seen trying to explain what is happening. The video ends with the family opening the gates.
"They were all hitting me. Later, even the househelp joined in. I was severely injured and they had to rush me to Apollo Hospitals in Jubilee Hills. In the car too, they verbally and physically attacked me. I had collapsed after the attack and they had to carry me in a stretcher," she said.
At the hospital, Sindhu said, the judge's first concern was to ensure that she does not narrate her ordeal to anyone.
"My mother-in-law kept yelling that I am mad and I needed sedatives. My clothes had been torn and I asked them to give me something to cover my body, they put a bed sheet on me," she said.
According to the medico legal case registered by Apollo Hospital that night, Sindhu had scratches over her chest on the left side, abrasions over her left breast and upper lip, and bruises over her right shoulder and her right forearm.
Sindhu said that the doctors at the hospital helped her and did not entertain her father-in-law's demands. "I went back to my parents' house and on April 26, I filed a police complaint. On April 27, I sat on dharna outside their house. I wanted my children back," recalled Sindhu, who has a B.Tech and an MBA degree.
The judge's family handed over Sindhu's youngest child to her, and she got custody of her elder one only recently.
A series of videos captured in the multiple CCTV cameras in the house shows the horror that unfolded for Sindhu that night.
One video shows the four adults in the family walking down a flight of stairs one by one. Sindhu is the last to get down, and looks disoriented. This is after her husband attacked her in the bedroom.
The other videos clearly document the assault.
At one point, the older man – believed to be Ramamohana Rao – grabs Sindhu by her hands and shakes her. Sindhu is also seen being dragged around in a drawing room, as two toddlers watch in shock. Vasista hits Sindhu and holds her by the collar at one point, when his mother and father intervene and pull him away. But soon, the older man himself grabs hold of Sindhu.
On April 26, a case was filed against the former judge, his wife, son and their househelp at the Central Crime Station in Hyderabad. The case was filed under sections 498A (cruelty by husband and relatives), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 406 (criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code and Dowry Prohibition Act.
With the videos emerging, the police believe they can build a stronger case against the family.
"What we have seen in the video, Sindhu Sharma already told us in her statement. But this will serve as documentary evidence. As far as the status of the case is concerned, only serving a notice under Section 41 CrPC to Nooty Ramamohana Rao was left. The next hearing is scheduled for September 23. We were planning to request the magistrate for orders to visit the accused's house and seize the CCTV footage, to help us while filing the chargesheet, but now that these videos have surfaced, we will go ahead and submit the same in court and proceed with the investigation," ACP K Sreedevi, Assistant Commissioner of Police, said.
"The police were hoping that new sections of 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) or 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC can be added to the existing case," Srinivas Madagula, the complainant's uncle and a lawyer told TNM.
Sindhu told TNM that she had accessed the videos in April, but decided to release them only now, after her husband filed for divorce. She says she did not want to leave her kids without the care of the father, and that her in-laws had added to her vortex of trouble.
Ramamohana Rao was a senior judge who was transferred from the Hyderabad High Court in 2016 and had retired in August 2017 while serving at the Madras HC. He had also served at the Madurai bench of the Madras HC for a brief period.
(With inputs from Sanyukta Dharmadhikari)