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Body swap in hospital: Gujarat HC says can’t direct to file FIR, hospital says kin also responsible

The incident that occurred on November 13 at the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-run VS Hospital involved the body of Lekha Chand (65) ,who died due to heart attack on November 11, which was kept at the hospital mortuary.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad | December 24, 2020 12:39:59 am
A veteran practising advocateA view of the Gujarat High Court. (File Photo)

The Gujarat High Court on December 21 refused to direct authorities to register an FIR after a plea was moved by the family members of a 65-year-old deceased woman whose corpse was swapped and cremated by another unrelated family in November. Meanwhile on Wednesday, VS Hospital in its affidavit blamed mortuary staffers as well as relatives of the family who identified the wrong body and cremated it.

The incident that occurred on November 13 at the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-run VS Hospital involved the body of Lekha Chand (65) ,who died due to heart attack on November 11, which was kept at the hospital mortuary. When family members arrived on November 14 to cremate the body, it emerged that Chand’s body was handed over to another family, who cremated it on November 13, thinking it to be of their family member.

The Chand family’s plea before the Gujarat HC had sought that the Ahmedabad police be directed to “forthwith register FIR against the accused…and to investigate the same within stipulated time as per the provisions…”

They had also sought that that the court may deem the police authorities’ non-registration of an FIR till date and not investigating the case “as an act of criminal negligence and an act to help the accused.”

The court of Justice AS Supehia however rejected the plea on the ground that the aggrieved party hadn’t approached the magistrate first as is expected and before exhausting available remedies, they had approached the high court.

Referring to a Supreme Court judgment, the court also observed that “if the high courts entertain such writ petitions seeking registration of FIR, then they will be flooded with such writ petitions and will not be able to do any other work.”

According to a family member, while an official FIR remains to be registered, the statement of the complainant, Binita Chand (daughter-in-law of Lekha) has been taken by the police station.

Meanwhile, in a second plea filed by the Chand family against the Bagadia family who had taken and cremated the body of Lekha Chand, municipal and police commissioners and VS Hospital, which is being heard by another bench of the HC of Justice Umesh Trivedi, the Chand family has sought that the court direct the AMC and VS Hospital to frame rules and regulations with respect to dead body handling at the morgue and has also sought that the respondents be directed to pay the aggrieved family Rs 50 lakh as compensation.

While VS Hospital, through its superintendent incharge Dr BS Patel, submitted in an affidavit on Wednesday that there is an existing SoP with regard to dead body handling at morgue, the court was also told that Chand’s body was identified by one Dinesh Chaudhary claiming to be from the Bagadia family, to be that of deceased Divyaben Bagadia. The VS Hospital affidavit admitted that the “unfortunate” body swap was due to a “grave mistake at the end of the concerned contractual employee Dr Priya Pargada and servant…Mangilal as well as Kalpeshbhai on 13.11.2020.”

However, VS Hospital added that “relatives of Divyaben Bagadiya are also responsible for not correctly identifying the body and taking over the body” of Lekha Chand. Justice Trivedi has now also sought an explanation on the investigation from the Ellisbridge police station.

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