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Samples 'preserved' in water, not formalin, could not be tested

More than four months after three girls were found in a well in Lakhani village of Bhandara district, the controversial case of alleged sexual assault and murder that rocked the parliament has opened yet another can of worms.


Mid DAY report on Feb 28

Sources at Nagpur’s Government Medical College have revealed that the organ samples that were sent by the Bhandara civil surgeons to them for histopathological testing were kept in plain water instead of formalin.

MiD DAY had reported how the case was botched up by a panel of doctors who were not forensic experts, who did not preserve any samples for diatom tests, which could have conclusively established whether or not the victims were alive when they were tossed into the well.

While the initial post mortem report suggested that the girls had been raped and sodomised before being thrown into the water, the second forensic report conducted by a team of doctors from Mumbai and Delhi ruled out any form of sexual assault.

By ‘preserving’ the organs in plain water, the doctors have further compromised investigations in the case.

The report declared that the uterus and fallopian tubes taken from the six-year-old and 11-year-old were completely distorted and partially decomposed, and so not fit for testing. The histopathology test was conducted to determine whether there were any tears, and if so, if the tears were sustained before or after death. The test could not be conducted owing to the lack of preservation of the organs.

“To conduct a microscopic examination of the tissues, the organs have to be preserved in formalin for 12 to 24 hours, which stabilises the tissues and prevents decay. In chemical analysis, we use common salt and water to preserve the organs,” said a forensic doctor.

Forensic experts are also raising questions on why the three girls’ uteruses and fallopian tubes were being examined to begin with, as these organs are studied only in the case of an abortion or pregnancy following sexual assault.

The forensic doctor added, “In this case, it is absolutely unnecessary to conduct a histopathology test on the victims’ uterus as this procedure is required only if the victim got pregnant or underwent an abortion.”

What is formalin?
Formalin is a compound commonly used in histopathology tests. As per protocol, 10 per cent of formaldehyde is mixed in water to preserve the organ samples in order to prevent decomposition. The solution is called formalin.

The other side
Speaking to MiD DAY, Dr CS Khobargade, who was a part of the five-member team from Bhandara district hospital, which first conducted the post mortem on the three minor girls from Murmadi in Lakhani, said, “It is not true that the organ samples were stored in plain water, we kept them in saline….no, formalin, as per protocol (sic). We are unaware if any changes were made after the organ samples were handed over to the police.” 

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