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Business News/ Companies / News/  Tata group sets up panel to probe Deshpande death

Mumbai: The Tata group on Tuesday said it had set up a committee to inquire into the death of Charudatta Deshpande, who headed the communications and corporate affairs department of Tata Steel Ltd till he quit in April.

Last Friday, the 57-year-old Deshpande was found dead in his Vasai house in suburban Mumbai.

A Tata group spokesperson said in an email response to Mint that the committee will be chaired by Ishaat Hussain, non-executive director of Tata Steel, and submit its findings to the board of Tata Steel within the next two months.

The committee, the email added, will also include chief ethics officer of the Tata group Mukund Rajan, chief human resources officer N.S. Rajan and the group’s general counsel, Bharat Vasani.

The committee was set up following Tuesday’s email from a group of nine journalists and communications executives to Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry and chairman emeritus of Tata group Ratan Tata, requesting an “urgent and immediate enquiry" into the death of Deshpande, who was a journalist-turned-communications executive.

Deshpande had worked with The Economic Times as a senior editor and headed the
corporate communications function in ICICI Bank Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd and Tata Steel.

He resigned from Tata Steel after Forbes wrote an article in its 15 April issue highlighting the problems faced by the steel-maker.

The mail sent to Mistry, dated 2 July, states that after the story was published, Deshpande told his friends including some of the nine journalists, that he was being blamed by Tata Steel officials “for leaking confidential company documents and facilitating a story inimical to their interests".

Mint has reviewed a copy of the email.

Preceding his death, Deshpande also confided to his friends that he was “put under two-week house arrest in Jamshedpur and that his phone was being tapped".

According to the email sent to Mistry and Tata, Deshpande was “also being forced into signing of some documents by the firm and admitting that he was responsible for the story published in the magazine".

In his response to the email by the nine, Mistry said, “We take these allegations with the utmost seriousness. We have put in place an appropriate mechanism to look into these and take necessary action. Let me assure you the Tata group does not and will not condone any action of the kind insinuated in your letter."

The mail sent by the nine also alleged that after Deshpande’s death, “concerted" efforts were made by Tata Steel officials and its PR agency to pass off his demise as the result of a heart attack and not suicide.

“A senior PR official even insisted that he had visited Charu’s residence and confirmed the news of the heart attack, which turned out to be untrue," the mail said.

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Updated: 03 Jul 2013, 12:03 AM IST
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