Even as the state Crime Investigation Department (CID), probing the alleged custodial death of 65-year-old migrant worker Babu Shaikh Nisar in Vadodara on December 10 last year, has decided to leave for Telangana to show photographs of unidentified bodies kept at the SSG Hospital to the victim’s family, the hospital authorities said a previous inquiry had found no such body matching the description of the “missing” person.
The state CID, in its reply to the Gujarat High Court on Friday, which is hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Nisar’s son Salim, has said that a team will visit the family’s home in Telangana with pictures of unidentified bodies from the SSG Hospital.
At the hospital, however, the department of forensic medicine, which manages the mortuary cold room with a capacity of about 100 bodies, said it has already replied to a previous inquiry by the police that no such body has been received in the morgue during the period of Nisar’s alleged murder.
Dr Ranjan Aiyer, Medical Superintendent of SSG hospital, said, “The department of forensic medicine has already complied with an inquiry instituted earlier, in which details of such bodies was sought. The hospital has no record of such a body that matches the description of the deceased.”
Aiyar added the hospital does not have photo records of unclaimed bodies that may have been kept in the cold room. According to the rules, all unclaimed bodies are disposed of within 72 hours.
Aiyar said, “After 72 hours, bodies have to be disposed of by either the police station which brought it in or by anyone else who brought it in, and in absence of anyone else, by the hospital. In case there is an explicit request from the police to store a body for a longer period, the hospital complies with it. However, no unclaimed bodies are stored for longer than a couple of weeks. The onus of photographing and recording forensic specimen of such bodies is with the police.”
The CID’s search for Nisar’s body – it dredged the Narmada main canal in Vadodara twice and also made inquiries at villages in the catchment areas of Mahisagar river – is an attempt to “bolster the prosecution argument” about the custodial death, according to investigators in Vadodara, who filed the FIR against the six policemen — inspector DB Gohil, sub-inspector DM Rabari and Lok Rakshak Dal jawans Pankaj Mavjibhai, Yogendra Jilansinh, Rajiv Savjibhai and Hitesh Shambubhai – in connection with the case.
The accused are in judicial custody at Vadodara Central Jail after they surrendered on September 2. The CID is expected to file the chargesheet by November end.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) SG Patil of E Division, who is the complainant in the Vadodara police FIR filed on July 6, said investigators had searched records of unclaimed bodies of December last year, before the high court handed over the case to the CID on August 6.
Patil said, “The state CID has a department for keeping records of all unclaimed and unidentified bodies from across the state. When we began the probe, we also searched the records available with the CID… But we did not come across any such body in the records.”
The Vadodara Police, which first began investigation in a missing person’s complaint filed by Salim at Sayajigunj police station in January this year, had also fanned out to Maharashtra and other areas to “find him alive”.
Patil, who was eventually handed over the joint investigation of the missing complaint at Sayajigunj police station as well as the probe of the alleged custodial killing at Fatehgunj police station, said, “The man has not been found alive in our probe. Our team visited Maharashtra to inquire into complaints of theft against him there. During the probe, we had sufficient proof that he was last seen with the six accused. In absence of the body, the case will rely on legal points that are more severe because the accused themselves are custodians of the law.”
Patil said the accused, in their bid to destroy evidence of having Nisar in custody, have also accepted that he was with them.
“They destroyed the FIR of the complainant of a theft for which Nisar was picked up. We have witnesses who saw the accused torturing the victim. The accused later claimed that they let him go and made a station diary entry to that effect. So, the onus is on the accused to prove they indeed let him go,” Patil said.
“The prosecution, in this case the CID, will have to establish firmly that the accused was last in the custody of the accused. The entire exercise to search the Narmada canal and now to look for unidentified bodies is because they have to convince the court that they did all they could but did not find the person alive or dead,” he added.
The CID is also looking for witnesses in the catchment areas of Mahisagar river, who may have seen the accused on the night of the crime. The exercise is based on the statement of police head constable Mahesh Rathwa, whose car was one of the vehicles used by the accused to allegedly dispose of the body.
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