Nearly two weeks after the accident onboard the INS Sindhuratna claimed two lives, the Mumbai Police is yet to conduct a panchanama of the vessel, said police officials. However the police has written to the Navy, the Navy is reluctant to grant them access, for fear that strategic details of the vessel will be leaked out.
On February 26, heavy smoke was found to be emanating from the sailors’ accommodation while the vessel was undergoing trails off the coast of Mumbai. Two officers, Lt. Commander Kapish Muwal and Lt. Manoranjan Kumar, were killed after they heroically managed to contain the smoke in their compartment and evacuate their colleagues.
The vessel is currently docked at the Naval Dockyard in Colaba, where a Navy Board of Inquiry is underway. The deaths of Lt. Commander Muwal and Lt. Kumar are being probed by the Yellow Gate police station. The police investigation is yet to make much headway however, officers have not been allowed access into the vessel.
“We have written to the Navy asking permission to conduct a panchanama but haven’t yet received a reply. Although we have recorded statements of the families and colleagues of the deceased, the panchanama is also very important,” said senior inspector Pandurang Dhoke, Yellow Gate police station.
Ideally, the police is required to visit a crime scene with independent witnesses within minutes of an incident occurring. The inordinate delay has had Dhoke questioning the purpose of the panchanama. “We require the crime scene to be undisturbed while conducting a panchanama, but after all these days, that will not be the case,” said Dhoke.
The Navy’s reluctance stems from fears that the police may make public the damage to sensitive equipment on the vessel. “Leaks of information mostly happen from the police. It is not that we do not want the public to know, but the police pass on information to the public. There have been cases when the police have been granted quick entry into vessel’s but generally, we give them a copy of the Navy’s probe. I will check what is our position on INS Sindhuratna,” said Navy spokesperson.
However, Dhoke said that the Navy’s fears were unfounded. “We have always entered vessels accompanied by Navy personnel and will require panchnama to be done within a stipulated legal period,” he said.