In a clear break from protocol, a first-year postgraduate resident doctor at Sion Hospital conducted the post-mortem in a case of a “suspicious” death in the absence of any video recording and without the presence of a forensic expert.
The body of 55-year-old Milind Jayawant Salvi had been discovered in his apartment in Wadala’s Hindu Colony on April 20. It was reportedly found unclad with the doors to his apartment open, the police said.
An officer said the owner of the redeveloped property, Jaydeep Mehta, is believed to have found Salvi’s body. Mehta then contacted the police and called Salvi’s family members who live in the United States.
Norms followed by medical colleges make it mandatory for a senior forensic expert at the medical college to monitor the autopsy done by students, specially if it is a case of suspicious death.
In this case, Dr Siddharth Sawardekar, who completed his MBBS and is now pursuing MD in Forensics, conducted the autopsy single-handedly.
The autopsy report, signed by him, states coronery artery heart disease as the cause of death, adding the body was found in “advanced decomposed state”.
Salvi’s next of kin, who reside in California, are demanding a second autopsy at JJ Hospital since April 27, contending that the death was not natural.
“The family has not been provided a cause of death certificate and requested repeatedly by the police and the builder to dispose the body,” an associate of the family claimed.
Samples of Salvi’s lungs, stomach, liver and kidney were sent for chemical analysis to check whether he died due to poisoning. While the results came negative, there was no histopathology test done that is usually a routine procedure. The autopsy findings suggested Salvi’s coronery artery had more than 90 per cent blockage and his lung was putrefied, suggesting it was decomposing.
However, a second opinion unofficially taken by the police from forensic experts, states that Salvi’s body had not entered an advanced decomposed state and was probably two to three days old. In the photographs taken of the body, while there was no physical bruise, experts claimed heart attack cannot be stated as the final cause of death in absence of a thorough examination.
Dr Ramesh Sawardekar, head of forensic department at Sion Hospital, however said, “We have followed norms. An MBBS doctor is eligible to perform autopsy. We only video-record the procedure if asked by the police.”
Hospital dean Dr Suleman Merchant did not comment over the issue. The body continues to lie at a Sion mortuary with the family refusing to cremate it until a second autopsy is conducted.
According to a senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, the accidental death of Salvi was transferred to the Mumbai Police Crime Branch to probe into the “suspicious” elements around the case.
“The family of Salvi was contacted by the builder and not by the police to inform them of the Salvi’s death. They claimed that Salvi never had a heart problem. In a written complaint to the police, the family has alleged murder. They had even approached the Mumbai Police Commissioner Datta Padsalgikar on several counts who later transferred the case of accidental death to the crime branch on May 27,” said a senior police officer on conditions of anonymity.
Padsalgikar was not available for comment.
When contacted, S K Ramdas, an investigating officer attached with unit IV of the crime branch said the police are waiting for the family to come to India to further probe into the allegations made by them.
“We have written to the hospital to preserve the body until the family arrives. The family has made several allegations and they will probed,” Ramdas added.