Bhendi Bazar building collapse: Crash opens debate on need for autopsies

Sep 02, 2017, 08:25 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Bodies of the victims of the Bhendi Bazar building collapse, were given to relatives without conducting post-mortems; experts say Disaster Management Act of 2005 specifies what is to be done in such cases

Forensic surgeons only did external examinations of the bodies in the Hussaini crash. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Forensic surgeons only did external examinations of the bodies in the Hussaini crash. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Should autopsies be conducted in case of mass casualties is the current topic of discussion among forensic surgeons and experts after the Hussaini collapse.

The reason is that bodies of 21 victims were handed over to the relatives on August 31 without post-mortems, which was not the case in the Siddhi Sai building collapse on July 25, in Ghatkopar, in which all the 17 bodies were opened up for autopsy. The Disaster Management Act of 2005 specifically defines such things.

Police Surgeon Dr S M Patil said, "We feel the relatives shouldn't face any hardships, as they have already lost their loved ones in the crash."

Only external examinations
A senior forensic surgeon with Grant Medical College said, "In case of the Hussaini building crash, we only conducted external examinations, as the police had requested this. On the basis of external wounds, we concluded that the cause of death was – 'suffocation with traumatic asphyxia, with multiple injuries (unnatural) in case of building collapse."

The surgeon said in the Ghatkopar case autopsies were done because of the tampering with pillars in the building (an act of culpable homicide). To prove this in court, the autopsies had to be done, whereas Hussaini building was declared dilapidated.

Interestingly, the 27 July 1999 GR empowers the police surgeon to decide if an autopsy is needed. The decision to hand over bodies to relatives in Hussaini collapse was taken by the dean of JJ hospital Dr T P Lahane. Interestingly, Dr Lahane said, "The provisions under section 174 of CrPC empower the ACP rank police officer to take such a call. But we had done this earlier - not conducted autopsies - in the Mazgaon building collapse on Sept 27, 2013, in which 61 people were killed."

Expert says
Dr Shailesh Mohite, Professor and Head of the department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at Topiwala National Medical College and Nair hospital, said, "More than 12 deaths in an incident are considered as disaster internationally. We have a Disaster Management Act of 2005, which supersedes all government resolutions when it comes to disaster cases, and the incident commander can give such orders. The act specifically says that in case of terror strike, or flood, or any other natural / man made disaster, at least a sample autopsy should be conducted to collect evidence which may later be required for investigation purpose."

21
No. of casualties in the Hussaini building crash

Photos: 10 Gruesome images of the Bhendi Bazar building collapse
Photos: 10 Gruesome images of the Bhendi Bazar building collapse

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