Mumbai: Dad waits months for dead son's personal possessions

Shunted from Cooper Hospital to Andheri police station over three months, father of pilot, who was killed in an accident on the Western Express Highway waits for his belongings

The pivotal scene in Mahesh Bhatt's 1984 tearjerker, Saraansh, with debutant Anupam Kher haggling with Customs officials to release his deceased son's ashes, won him the Filmfare Best Actor that year.

Alok Chatterjee, 68, has even written to Mumbai commissioner Rakesh Maria for help. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Alok Chatterjee, 68, has even written to Mumbai commissioner Rakesh Maria for help. Pic/Nimesh Dave 

For Alok Chatterjee, 68, there sits no reward. The retired traffic controller with Mumbai Airport has spent the last three months racing between a hospital and police station to claim the belongings of his only son, Captain Soumik Chatterjee. The 28-year-old pilot with Jet Airways was killed in a road accident on Western Express Highway in April this year.

Chatterjee, who now works with a private aviation firm as consultant, says, "Neither officials at Andheri police station nor Cooper Hospital have offered me clarity about where my son's uniform, metal wings, wrist watch, shoes, socks and neck tie are. That's all I have as far as his last memory goes."

Chatterjee has written letters seeking help to senior inspector at Andheri police station, Nandakumar Dhumal, additional commissioner of police (West Region) Chhering Dorje, Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria, superintendent of Cooper Hospital and Swadheen Kshatriya, chief secretary of Maharashtra.

"Finally, I received a reply in July from the Andheri police, stating that no possessions were on my son's body when they received it. Meanwhile, hospital authorities say they had handed over the belongings to the police. After repeated visits, I have been made to wait, I have been spoken to rudely, and now I have little idea of what to do next," says a baffled Chatterjee.

According to him, he had inquired with the staff at Cooper Hospital, where his son was brought in, the day of the accident. They promised to locate and hand the possessions over, but never did. "My nephew even met Cooper's dean, Dr Ramesh Chaturvedi. They took down my number and promised to call."

On April 5, 2015, captain Soumik Chatterjee, a resident of Andheri East, was on his way to the airport in a cab provided by his employer, Jet Airways. The accident occurred at 5.30 am when the cab slammed into a divider before the Andheri flyover on Western Express Highway. Chatterjee, who was seated on the rear seat, died due to brain haemorrage. He had left his home at 5.15 am to report for a 6.15 am Mumbai-Bengaluru-Mumbai flight.

His father recollects, "I received a call from Jet Airways at 6.45 am to say that Soumik had met with an accident and had been taken to Andheri's Cooper Hospital. I left home and got there by 7.30 am. I was told my son was declared dead before admission."

The hospital gave him a list of four items — an ID card, pen, ring and bracelet — that the pilot was carrying in a bag in the cab, and asked Chatterjee to collect them from the police. "I did that, but there was no sign of the belongings that were on his person that day."

The driver, Kamlesh Kahar, revealed during investigations that he wasn't speeding but because an Innova suddenly overtook him from the left, he had no option but to steer towards the right and missed the divider. The bleeding pilot was rushed to Cooper. Doctors said his head had smashed against a metallic object, leading to his death. Kahar, who sustained minor injuries, was arrested by the Andheri police and booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

"We shifted to Mumbai from Kolkata when Soumik was five. He was bright and hardworking; a student of Bombay Scottish School in Powai. He was supposed to get married the year he passed away," says Chatterjee. Investigating officer at Andheri police station, Vikas Kadam said, "After we got custody of the body, we conducted a panchnama.

After that, I left for the investigation. My staff was present there, though. Later, I learnt that his belongings had been misplaced. We are conducting an enquiry into the issue. We suspect that the hospital's ward boy may have disposed the belongings."

Turning the blame on the police, Cooper Hospital dean, Ramesh Chaturvedi, said, "It's the duty of the police to take care of a deceased's belongings. There are no lockers in the hospital to keep possessions." An official spokesperson of the hospital, however, claimed that they had received a letter from Chatterjee, and "the search is going on".

He explained that when an accident victim is brought to a hospital, and if s/he is declared dead before admission, the staff informs the local police. The police takes custody of the body and does the panchnama. The body is then sent for a post-mortem to ascertain the cause of death. "So, the belongings would have been lost at casualty, by the police or at the post-mortem centre," he said.

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