The body of a Mumbai resident who died in Qatar under “mysterious circumstances” in September last year will be flown back India on Friday, more than nine months after his death. On Tuesday evening, the family of the deceased received a letter from his employers, informing them of the development.
Chembur resident Jitender Singh Khalsa (38) had flown to Doha in September 2013 to work with the Qatar Engineering & Construction Company (QEC). On November 25, he was found dead in the departure lounge of the Doha International Airport. Jitender’s family had refused to sign a release form to claim his body until QEC informed them of the exact cause of death. The family had subsequently petitioned the Bombay High Court (HC), alleging foul play in the death.
After moving the HC, Jitender’s family was able to procure photocopies of reports of the post-mortem examination conducted in Doha as well as CCTV footage from the airport. However, the family remained firm in their refusal to claim his body till the QEC submitted the original post-mortem and forensic test reports.
“We have accepted the body only on the condition that the QEC sends us the originals. Things only changed for us after the High Court pulled up the company and the Qatar Embassy in Mumbai,” said Dilip Singh Khalsa (24), Jitender’s younger brother. The body will arrive at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport on Friday.
Dilip added that the cause of death was yet to be ascertained. “The post-mortem reports are inconclusive. Also, the CCTV footage shows Jitender collapsing twice at the airport. But no explanation has been provided for that,” he said.
According to a petition filed by Dilip in the Bombay High Court, on November 26 last year, around 7:30 pm, Jitender’s family was informed by J M Mehta and Company, the Santacruz-based recruitment agency, that they had received an email from QEC informing them about Jitender’s death. A notification and certification of death issued in Qatar stated that Jitender had died as a result of “acute heart and respiratory failure”.
Recounting their ordeal of the past nine months, Dilip said his family was made to run from pillar to post for answers. “The company told us initially that my brother had died of acute heart and respiratory failure while flying back home. But we never believed that because he was in good health before he departed. The company could also not produce his flight ticket and boarding pass. We went to New Delhi to speak to external affairs ministry several times, but nothing came out of it. Finally, we approached the court for relief,” he said.
In Dilip’s petition, the ministry of external affairs, the ministry of overseas affairs, the protector general of immigrants, the company that recruited Jitender for a job in Qatar, and the QEC, had been named as respondents.
In April, the High Court had directed that the Qatar consulate in Mumbai be impleaded as a respondent in the case. In May, pursuant to the direction of the court, the company that recruited Jitender submitted the CCTV camera footage to the court. The footage allegedly indicated that Jitender had collapsed at the airport before boarding a flight back to Mumbai. On May 5, the court said that Jitender’s family “may take appropriate steps to communicate the authorities concerned for sending the body to India”.
Dilip had sought compensation of Rs 70 lakh from QEC and sought a court direction to the Indian government to provide a job to Rajinder, his sister-in-law. Jitender is survived by his by his wife and 11-year-old daughter.