Sheena Bora case: Senior JJ doctors under scanner for forensic swap

CBI chargesheet in Sheena Bora murder case confirms JJ Hospital blunder exposed by mid-day. Forensic samples handed to Khar police as Sheena’s are not hers. Is it dereliction of duty by senior docs or intent to benefit accused? CBI to investigate next

With a report submitted by Nair Hospital being included in the around 2,000-page chargesheet filed by the CBI in the Sheena Bora murder case, the city’s JJ Hospital is being probed to check if any of its staff knowingly tampered with evidence in the case.

 TP Lahane
Senior docs at JJ, including dean Dr TP Lahane (above), may be under scanner for submitting clinching forensic evidence —bones and teeth belonging to someone else as Sheena Bora's. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

In September, the department of forensic medicine at Mumbai Central’s Nair Hospital had reported that the skeletal samples sent to JJ’s Anatomy Department in May 2012 did not match with the remains of Sheena Bora exhumed in Pen, Raigad, by Khar police this year.

Also read: Did JJ Hospital mix up Sheena Bora's forensic samples?

In its September 19 issue, this paper had reported the error on the part of JJ’s Anatomy Department (‘Did JJ Hospital mix up Sheena Bora’s forneisc samples?’).

Sheena Bora’s skeletal remains  were found by the Mumbai police on August 28, 2015. The same day, JJ confirmed it had located her forensic samples collected by Pen Police in 2012
Sheena Bora’s skeletal remains were found by the Mumbai police on August 28, 2015. The same day, JJ confirmed it had located her forensic samples collected by Pen Police in 2012

A detailed report on the discrepancies is now part of the CBI chargesheet filed against the main accused Indrani Mukerjea, her former husband Sanjeev Khanna and driver Shyamvar Rai.

Mismatched evidence
The dental samples provided by JJ’s anatomy team (labeled FM 579/15) and the skeletal remains exhumed by Khar police on August 28, 2015 (FM 578/15) were compared by Dr Freny Karjodkar, professor and head of department, oral medicine and radiology, Nair Dental College. In her report, dated September 5, 2015, she states: “All the teeth collected from JJ hospital do not belong to the maxilla and mandible of skeleton recovered by exhumation...”

Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of forensic medicine and toxicology, in his report states that none of the bones received from JJ matched the skeleton — whose DNA matched that of Indrani’s — as these bones were already present on the skeleton.

The spot where police dug out Sheena Bora’s skeletal remains in Pen Taluka, Raigad district, on August 28
The spot where police dug out Sheena Bora’s skeletal remains in Pen Taluka, Raigad district, on August 28

The September 2015 report stated: “It is unexplanaible and unacceptable that why these sample (sic) were accepted by JJ Hospital and kept with them for so many years. Inspite of preserving these article (sic), no reporting was done by JJ Hospital. The samples of skin and hairs should had been forwarded to FSL Kalina for detection of inflammable substance and DNA analysis. Similarly the teeth also could have been forwarded to FSL Kalina for DNA analysis.”

Also read: Are Sheena Bora's forensic samples missing again?

A member of the forensic team at the scene of crime in Pen taluka in August
A member of the forensic team at the scene of crime in Pen taluka in August

JJ docs probed
A few weeks ago, the CBI team probing the case summoned lecturer at the Anatomy Department, Grant Medical College, Dr Zeba Khan and questioned her at length about the manner in which the samples were received from Pen police. The team, which also included a panel of three forensic experts from the All India Institute of Medical Science (AAIMS), Delhi — Dr Adarsh Kumar, additional professor, Dr Millo Tabin, additional professor, and Dr Abhishek Yadav, assistant professor — also questioned Dr Khan about handing over of the samples to Khar police in September 2015. Statements of forensic doctors from Nair Hospital, who exhumed the skeletal remains in August 2015, and subsequently analysed the JJ samples, were also recorded. Amongst those from Nair hospital that CBI spoke to are Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of forensic department, Dr K S Kulkarni, assistant professor, and Dr Swapnil Akhade, assistant professor. A common statement of the three was recorded.

Sheena Bora
Sheena Bora

The CBI also summoned Dr Sanjay Thakur, attached to Kamarli Primary Health Center in Pen. It was Dr Thakur who had conducted the first autopsy in May 2012 on an unidentified body (later identified at Sheena Bora’s) and had sent the samples to JJ’s anatomy department.

Lahane defends hospital
While Sunday mid-day has information that among the JJ doctors whose statement was recorded was the hospital’s dean, Dr T P Lahane, it’s something that Lahane denied. According to sources, CBI sought clarity on the discrepancy between the two samples as well as the line of treatment given to Indrani after the October 2, 2015, alleged drug overdose incident. Dr Lahane, however, did confirm that CBI met Dr Khan.

On the controversy surrounding the samples, he said: “We take into account the outward number sent by the concerned police. In this case, Pen police had sent it in their cover letter, which is why we accepted the samples. As far as returning it to Pen police is concerned, we tried intimating them by phone a few times.”

Neither Dr Khan nor Dr Thakur were willing to speak to the media saying that they had been instructed thus by the CBI.

AIIMS matches the samples
Dr Sudhir Kumar Gupta, professor and head of department, forensic medicine and toxicology, AIIMS, said, “The Sheena Bora case was one of the most challenging cases I have come across in 25 years. We are satisfied that our panel of five senior forensic experts could not only conclude that the skeletal remains exhumed from Pen on August 2015 were indeed those of Bora’s but could also conclude the cause of death — fatal pressure to the neck (either strangulation or smothering). This was ascertained after eliminating various other causes of death in an act of criminal homicide.”

Also read: Sheena Bora case - Government seeks report on 'botch-up' by Raigad police

Dr Gupta added, “Using the super imposition technique, we reconstructed the skeleton from toe to skull and matched the description of the deceased with her actual dimensions — height, weight and width of body. Finally, the end result matched Sheena’s photographs.”

Probing manipulation
A senior CBI official, on condition of anonymity, said, “The investigating team will probe all angles including the manner in which the skeletal remains were collected in May 2012 and subsequent return of samples by JJ hospital in 2015.” The officer added, “The investigating officers will also probe if anyone deliberately misplaced or switched samples. If so, criminal proceedings will follow. Else, it will be considered as an act of dereliction of duty and a report will be prepared accordingly and submitted to the concerned state department for necessary action.”

Mismatch will help defence

Former IPS officer-turned-lawyer Y P Singh, said the inconsistency between the two samples will be used by the defence during trial.

Singh also raised concerns over the manner in which the first sample was sent to JJ’s anatomy department. “As per the instructions in the Maharashtra Medical Code, every sample sent needs to carry the crime registration no. i.e. the FIR No. or the Accidental Death Report No., the name of the Police Station and, preferably, the Outward No. and date of dispatch. Similar instructions have been specified in the Bombay Police Manual, which every officer is required to follow.

In other words, no sample can be sent for examination by experts till the time the ADR or the FIR No. is mentioned,” he said, pointing out that in this case, JJ received the sample in 2012, without an ADR number.

He added that while, finding out the person or persons responsible for tampering with the evidence could lead investigators to a larger conspiracy in the case. It will require a diligent team to do so.

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