HDFC VP Murder Case: Did cops err on autopsy centre?

By Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Forensic experts believe that as per jurisdiction the police should have sent the body of Siddarth Sanghavi to Nair postmortem centre and not KEM

Representational picture

The decision to send the decomposed body of Siddharth Sanghavi to KEM post-mortem centre instead of Nair, has not gone down well with forensic experts in the city. Interestingly, on Tuesday (a day after Sanghavi's body was sent to KEM), the N M Joshi Marg police, sent a body of a male, who was declared dead before admission by the casualty doctor at Nair hospital, for post-mortem at Nair itself.

A senior forensic expert said "As a matter of practice, the officers are aware that medico-legal autopsy cases within their jurisdiction have to be brought to Nair post-mortem centre. If they could refer the burn case to us on Tuesday, they should have done the same on Monday too, when they found the body of Sanghavi."

The doctor added, "As per the norms, we cannot visit the crime scene until the local police requests our presence to carry out medico legal autopsy. On Tuesday, I was surprised, when I went through media reports stating that KEM forensic team visited the crime scene at Kalyan and that they even conducted the forensic analysis and autopsy of the decomposed body of Sanghavi."

Medico legal advice
"If the local police had doubts, they could have contacted the police surgeon, who is also the medico legal adviser for the state. Or the forensic team at KEM should have at least sent the police back, stating that the N M Joshi Marg police station doesn't come under their jurisdiction," pointed out another forensic expert. He added, "In this case, there was no expertise issue, as both Nair and KEM are civic-run medical colleges and Nair is the oldest to provide postgraduation in forensic medicine."

Trial and error
The concern for the forensic experts is that such a violation of protocol will only benefit the accused during the trial, as the defense lawyers may raise lapses before the court. Dr S M Patil, police surgeon, when contacted said, "I won't be able to make any comment at this stage." Additional Commissioner of Police (Central Region) Dr Ravindra Shisve said, "I am not aware of this, you may speak to the concerned zonal DCP or the police station."

Senior Police Inspector Pandit Thorat of N M Joshi Marg police station, when contacted said, "I will have to check with the investigating officer about the reason for taking the body to KEM and not Nair postmortem centre. In my opinion, as my police station falls in between KEM and Nair medical college, it might have been decided to take the body to KEM, as it is comparatively closer to the police station." Dr Avinash Supe, KEM dean, was unavailable for comment.

What forensic experts and lawyers say
Dr Indrajit Khandekar, in-charge of the country's first Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit (CFMU) at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), Sevagram, Wardha, said, "The Supreme Court has already made observation in numerous cases in the past, wherein it has stated that the police, in case of a medico legal autopsy case, should adhere to the jurisdiction and must send the corpse only to the assigned post-mortem centre or medical college."

He added, "In case the jurisdiction condition is flouted, the police need to obtain a written order from either the police surgeon (in case of city), Civil Surgeon (in case of Rural) or the District Magistrate." When asked if such an act can benefit the accused during the trial, Dr Khandekar replied in the affirmative.

Senior Counsel Majeed Memon said, "If the investigating agency, at the very threshold of the investigation in a sensational case, commits an error advertently or otherwise, it is going to go a long way in affecting the creditability of the materials collected by such investigating agency, as also its own bonafide." He added, "During trial, defence will not hesitate challenging the bonafide of the concerned investigating officer. Unless the investigating police officer has a very strong reason for this deviation, the prosecution is destined to suffer.

Also Read: HDFC VP Murder Case: Suspect Planned To Sell Victim's Car And Mobile For Money

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