Mumbai: CBI to drag kabrastan trust to court for defying exhumation order

Jul 28, 2016, 08:29 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

The graveyard trust says exhumation of corpse of Pune student Sanam Hasan against Sharia law and that it doesn’t have a copy of the court order

The CBI, probing the mysteries surrounding the death of fashion design and communication student Sanam Hasan and the subsequent swapping of her heart during the post-mortem examination, has decided to move court against the Versova kabrastan for refusing to allow a court-ordered exhumation of her mortal remains.

Four years since Sanam’s death at her birthday bash, parents Layique Zia Hasan and Nagina Hasan still have no clue about what caused her death
Four years since Sanam’s death at her birthday bash, parents Layique Zia Hasan and Nagina Hasan still have no clue about what caused her death

Sanam died under mysterious circumstances at a birthday bash planned by her friends at a rented room in a posh residential apartment in Pune in October 2012. The case was handed over from the Pune police to the CID, and finally to the CBI in 2014.

Recently, a magistrate court granted the CBI permission to exhume the body on July 26.

But on Monday afternoon, the CBI special crime branch office at CGO Complex, Navi Mumbai, received a fax intimation from the kabrastan, denying it permission for exhumation.

Sanam’s grave at the Versova kabrastan
Sanam’s grave at the Versova kabrastan

The kabrastan, in its reply to the CBI (a copy of which is with mid-day), said, “We have consulted our Muslim religious heads and they told us that as per the Sharia, after the burial of a Muslim, his/her grave cannot be dug up again to exhume the body and, hence, we strongly object to the exhumation of the body and do not permit [it].”

A CBI officer purview to the investigation said, “We will submit the kabrastan’s letter before the court [to let it decide the next course of action].”

A senior CBI officer said a notice under Section 91 (summons to produce document or other thing) of the CrPC has been issued to the kabrastan’s trust, seeking minutes of the meeting at which the decision to deny exhumation was taken. “We will produce the denial letter and the minutes of the meeting before the court.”

Why exhume now?
The case has witnessed a series of blunders, with botched up post-mortem examination and histopathology reports throwing up ridiculous findings of Sanam being male and suffering from ischemic heart disease, and of her DNA not matching that of her parents.

Exhumation, said the CBI officer, will allow the investigators to match the corpse’s DNA with that of the parents and, thereby, confirm if it is indeed Sanam’s mortal remains.

Asked what leads could a corpse provide four years after burial, he said, “We want to see if the heart was mismatched due to negligence or was it intentional. After the reports of the central forensic science laboratories (FSLs) in Kalina and Hyderabad pointed to the fact that the samples provided were not those of Sanam, we sent the samples to the Central FSL in Delhi. Its reports are awaited.”

The kabrastan had made its stand clear much before; it had put up a stiff resistance even when Sanam’s family had requested the exhumation. Sanam’s father, Layique Zia Hasan (57), said he visited the kabrastan again last Sunday, with a copy of mid-day’s report that day on the roadblocks in the investigation in the case, hoping to prevail over members of the kabrastan trust.

Amid pleas to allow the CBI to do its job, Hasan even cited a precedent at the same graveyard— the exhumation in September 2013 of Rameez Chougle’s mortal remains to solve the mystery of his and sister Rehab’s sudden deaths. A post-exhumation examination of Rameez’s corpse had revealed that the siblings had died of pesticide poisoning.

The trust members told Hasan that they had made an exception in Rameez’s case because he had been buried just two months prior to the exhumation plea. “They said they knew his body would not have decomposed much. But they are refusing Sanam’s exhumation due to the four-year delay,” said Hasan.

When the pleas failed, Hasan even told the trust members that the order for exhumation had come from court and, so, they had to cooperate with the CBI. But even this failed to do the trick. “They asked me for a copy of the court order, but I didn’t have it with me. The trust members assured me that once a copy of the court order is submitted to them, they may again call for a committee meeting and take a final call,” said the father.

The CBI officer said the agency will forward a copy of the court order to the kabrastan.

‘Seawater would have destroyed evidence’
Besides raising religious concerns, the Versova kabrastan claims that since the graveyard is close to the seashore, seawater and rainwater could have entered Sanam’s grave over these last four years and caused rapid decomposition of all mortal remains.

‘Saline water keeps skeletal remains intact’
Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of the forensic department, BYL Nair Medical College, said saline water, in fact, helps preserve mortal remains longer. “A human skeleton is completely disintegrated only after 10 years. If no other body has been buried in the same grave, then we can easily extract the DNA from the femur (thigh bone) and a molar tooth.”

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