Mumbai: When will we handle custodial death autopsies, ask civic medical colleges

Sep 13, 2018, 08:52 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

With the government qualifying 17 state-run hospitals to conduct post-mortem in custodial deaths, civic colleges say their students shouldn't be denied opportunity

Mumbai: When will we handle custodial death autopsies, ask civic medical colleges
JJ Hospital's Grant Medical College gets custodial death cases from Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad for autopsies. File pics

The veterans, so to speak, among city's civic hospitals are riled up over a notification issued by the state home department, which has named 17 medical colleges in the state where custodial death cases should mandatorily be sent for post-mortem.

Decades-old KEM Hospital's Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College, Nair Hospital's Topiwala National Medical College, and Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College, which have been conducting medico-legal autopsies, are upset at being deprived of the chance to carry out custodial death post-mortems.

The six-page notification issued last month, a copy of which is with mid-day, instructs that all custodial deaths should be referred only to the shortlisted colleges, while also giving guidelines to be followed for the procedure, as per directives of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Police surgeon Dr S M Patil said the move will help the police department immensely, as personnel won't need to travel long distances to avail expert opinion in such cases.

Nair hospital's Topiwala National Medical College is among the civic medical colleges still waiting for the chance to get custodial death cases for post-mortem
Nair hospital's Topiwala National Medical College is among the civic medical colleges still waiting for the chance to get custodial death cases for post-mortem

By the book
According to senior forensic experts, the state used to have 14 government-run medical colleges; three have been added to that list now, located in the districts of Gondia, Chandrapur and Latur. These will provide relief to the local police. Earlier, in Latur district, the police had to travel over 47 km to reach the Government Medical College in Ambejogai for an autopsy.

An expert added, "The notification is applicable to all custodial death cases, including convicts and undertrials in state prisons, suspects or accused in police custody, the destitute sent to beggar homes by magistrate courts, those at children homes, as well as inmates who die during the course of treatment in a government hospital."

In all custodial death cases, including those where death is due to natural causes, forensic surgeons have to ensure that the entire autopsy is videographed. Also, the post-mortem report must be prepared as per the prescribed NHRC format, which expects the surgeons to check for both physical (external) and internal injuries.

As per the notification, the department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at Grant Medical College and JJ Group of Hospitals is the only centre where all custodial death cases reported from all police stations and prisons in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Raigad districts will be sent for autopsy. Grant Medical College receives 100 custodial death cases yearly on an average.

'Why not us?'
This has not gone down well with civic medical colleges. Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of the department at Topiwala Medical College, said, "Ours is one of the oldest medical colleges in the city, offering postgraduation in forensic medicine and toxicology. Also, after the Coroner Act was abolished in 1999, civic medical colleges have been conducting medico-legal autopsies, and yet we are being deprived of this... We have the required expertise... the state home department should seriously consider letting us handle custodial death cases, which will give some valuable experience to our postgraduate students."

Dr Rajesh Dhere, professor and head of the department at LTMG Medical College, echoed him. "In the larger interest of the society, and for the benefit of postgraduate medical students, KEM, Nair and Sion medical colleges should be allowed to handle these cases."

17
Total number of medical colleges on the list now

14
No. of medical colleges on the list earlier

Shortlisted colleges
. Grant Medical College (Mumbai), for cases in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad
. BJ Medical College (Pune), for cases in Pune and Ahmednagar
. Government Medical College (Miraj), for cases in Sangli and Satara
. SRTR Medical College (Ambejogai), for cases in Beed
. Government Medical College (Aurangabad), for cases in Aurangabad and Jalna
. Government Medical College (Nagpur), for cases in Nagpur
. Baushabed Hire Government Medical College (Dhule), for cases in Nashik

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