Three years on, Mumbai couple yet to know how their daughter died

Updated: 09 December, 2015 10:18 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon |

Despite probe by Pune police, state CID and CBI, Versova couple has been waiting for justice since 2012. Both wonder how heart disease can be cause of death when 19-year-old was a healthy athlete

October is no longer a happy month for the Hasans, residents of JP Road in Versova. It once was. With 51-year-old entrepreneur Nagina Hasan’s birthday on October 4 and her daughter Sanam’s birthday falling the day before, the month was a time of celebration.

Sanam cut a cake with her parents on the eve of her 19th birthday on October 2, 2012, before heading out for the fateful party with her friends. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Sanam cut a cake with her parents on the eve of her 19th birthday on October 2, 2012, before heading out for the fateful party with her friends. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

But only until October 2012, when Nagina and her husband, Layique Zia Hasan (57), lost their daughter in mysterious circumstances. Sanam, 19, a second year fashion design and communications student at Pune’s Symbiosis Institute died under mysterious circumstances on the eve of her birthday on October 2, 2012, surrounded by colleagues and friends.

Layique Zia Hasan and Nagina question “alcoholic intoxication with Ischmic heart disease” as cause of death because Sanam was a healthy teen. That two DNA tests of her heart didn’t match with theirs, vindicates them, they say
Layique Zia Hasan and Nagina question “alcoholic intoxication with Ischmic heart disease” as cause of death because Sanam was a healthy teen. That two DNA tests of her heart didn’t match with theirs, vindicates them, they say

How she could have died in the middle of her birthday party held in a rented room belonging to a colleague in a posh residential colony of Pune, questions the family. “She went, and so did our smiles,” says her emotional father, who is waiting for closure after what he alleges was a botched up postmortem by a junior doctor — only the beginning of a string of goof-ups in a botched-up investigation.

The fateful night
Sanam, who was keen to pursue a Masters in fashion design from Singapore, had enrolled for the graduate course in Pune. In her second year, the hostelite took up a part-time summer internship — mandatory in the curriculum — at a leading fashion accessory and shoes brand outlet.

A collage of Sanam’s pictures
A collage of Sanam’s pictures

On October 2, 2012, the Hasans and their son Aabid decided to make a surprise visit to Pune from Mumbai. “We met Sanam at the mall where she worked from 5 pm to 9 pm after college hours. Delighted to see us, she came out shopping with me, while her father and brother checked into a star hotel nearby. We joined them later,” recalls Nagina.

When Nagina checked Sanam’s phone, the call details had been deleted
When Nagina checked Sanam’s phone, the call details had been deleted

“Her mobile was ringing all evening since her friends had arranged for a birthday party. She was keen to attend it but I had refused permission. After dinner in the hotel room, at 11.30 pm, we cut her birthday cake. A few minutes later, two friends — a boy and girl — came to the room, requesting that I send her.”

Nagina relented, and she wishes she hadn’t. Sanam didn’t return that night. The Hasans were woken up the next morning by a call from Sanam’s friend, saying she had been admitted to Ruby Hall Clinic, one of Pune’s top hospitals.

“We reached Ruby Hall at 9.45 am. The doctors were making attempts to revive her, and they finally declared her dead at 10 am. Surprisingly, none of her friends were there, or came later for the funeral. This raised a doubt about what had transpired at the party,” Nagina adds.

When she checked Sanam’s phone, the call details had been deleted. The memory card of 8GB was also missing, Nagina recalls holding Sanam’s phone in her hand. “The body was sent for an autopsy, and since then, we have run from pillar to post to seek justice. The Yerwada police, the State CID, and now the CBI… everyone has conducted a probe. All we have at the end of three years are more questions.”

Where is Sanam’s heart?
The latest shock to come their way is the result of a DNA of the heart test, an important document considering Sanam’s hystopathology reports stated “alcoholic intoxication with Ischmic heart disease” as cause of death. The results which arrived two months ago on October 25, revealed that the DNA of Sanam’s heart didn’t match that of the parents.

This was the second time the samples hadn’t matched. In 2013, the first time the samples were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Kalina, the result was the same — clear mismatch.

“Sanam never had a heart problem. She was a football player and had participated in a college tournament just 12 days before her death. Also, a day before the incident, she was doing cardio at the gym. We couldn’t accept the findings, and hence demanded the DNA of the heart test,” says her father.

Strangely, the Hyderabad test report confirmed a match of other organs taken for viscera — kidney, spleen, liver, etc. Worse, the hystopathology report revealed 70 per cent narrowing of the arterial lumen and an old, healed infract, the latter suggesting a previous heart attack.

Samples swapped?
The Hasans claim that the chaos began with the local Yerawada police not collecting required evidence (see box). This forced the Hasans to approach then home minister RR Patil. After his intervention, the case was transferred from to the State CID in November 2012.

“It’s only then that we could get our hands on copies of the postmortem and hystopathology reports. The viscera samples sent for hystopathology tests confirmed our doubts,” says Nagina. The report stated Sanam’s sex as ‘Male’, and that the heart had 70 per cent blockage. The vaginal swab chemical analysis report confirmed the presence of semen, which indicated a sexual act prior to death.

The CBI takes over
When the DNA heart test report from Kalina dated April 5, 2013 didn’t throw up a match, the Hasans once again approached Patil in 2013, who suggested the case be transferred to the CBI. In a letter dated November 19, 2013, the CBI rejected the request saying the case did not have international or inter-state ramification.

This is when the parents moved the Bombay High Court. In the Order dated November 15, 2013, the division bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice PD Kode stated, “We are satisfied that number of discrepancies which have not been explained. It is necessary to find out the truth in respect of death of the daughter of the Petitioner. Hence, in our view, this is a fit case for transfer of investigation and thereafter take appropriate steps and submit a report to this court on the next date.”

Inquiring about the postmortem conducted at BJM Medical College and Sasoon Hospital, the CBI submitted all the samples of viscera to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad. The HC transferred the case to the CBI on September 15, 2014.

Glitches all along
The Hasans claim the case has been left in limbo, firstly due to inadequate investigations by the local Yerawada police. Although the police were informed by Ruby Hall of Sanam’s death at 12 pm on October 3, 2012, they arrived at Ruby Hospital mortuary only at 2.30 pm. The parents allege the cops didn’t visit the flat where the death occurred and the party was going on until early morning.

The house was not sealed nor was the forensic team called in for an immediate crime scene probe (see ‘unanswered questions in the police probe’). SA Patil, Senior Police Inspector at Yerawada police station said, “I have no clue about the case. I was not attached to this police station in 2012.”

A senior officer from CID, on condition of anonymity, said, “We did probe the case and also registered a FIR in the case against the organiser of the party under section 304 (a) of IPC.” Devpreet Singh, CBI spokesperson in New Delhi, could not be reached despite numerous attempts. However a senior CBI officer, who did not wish to be identified, confirmed receiving the Hyderabad report and the DNA of the heart mismatch.

“It is not the first time this has happened. By the time the case is handed over to CBI, crucial evidences and links to the case are either missing or botched up.” Advocate Rohini Salian, senior counsel and former special prosecutor for the state of Maharashtra, said, “It seems the case has too many gray areas, which clearly indicates shoddy investigation by the police. It needs to be revisited from the start to rule out a deliberate attempt [to kill]. Or was it faulty investigation by the local police and State CID?”

Mystery of 2 ECGs
When sunday mid-day shared the documents from Ruby Hall, treating papers, autopsy reports, hystopathology findings and the DNA analysis report with an HOD of the department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology at a city-based medical college, serious concerns about lapses were raised (see Medico flip-flop).

An ECG report timed 8.52 am indicates that Sanam did not have a heart beat. However, Ruby Hall’s admission form shows the time of admission as 9.25 am. Clinical history states that Sanam was brought unconscious and unresponsive to the hospital, with no pulse and blood pressure that could not be recorded. Her pupils were dilated. The resuscitation process began from 9.30 am and lasted till 10 am.

The treating doctor declared her dead at 10 am and the body was sent to the hospital mortuary. The hospital records shows a second ECG at 10.40 am (40 minutes after she was declared dead). The hospital informs Yerwada police station of death at 12 noon. How was the first ECG taken before admission for was prepared? Her father claims by the time of the second ECG, her body was already in the mortuary (mid-day is in possession of the mortuary receipt No. 0503 dated 3/10/2015).

While Dr Kiran Borude, then causality incharge at Ruby Hall, said, “I am no more with Ruby Hall hospital”, Dr Sujata Malick, former Medical Director, Ruby Hall hospital, said, “The attempt is to revive the patient and subsequently the admission process is done. Since it was a young girl, all efforts were made to recuperate her.” When asked how a second ECG was taken 40 minutes after she was declared dead, Dr Malick said, “I cannot remember the timings, it is a three-year-old matter.”

Bomi Bhote, current CEO, Ruby Hall, said, “The ECG at 10.40 am was done as a final documentary evidence with the family in presence before shifting the body to the mortuary. The time of entry to the mortuary is documented as 11.15 am.” But Sanam’s father rubbishes the Bhote’s claim, saying, “We have the mortuary receipt that states otherwise. We were at the mortuary until the police arrived at 2.30 pm.”

Dr Harish Tatya, now lecturer at the Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, BJ Medical College and Sasoon Hospital, Pune, who was an MBBS and student of MD Forensic at the time of conducting the postmortem, said, “The matter is subjudice and I cannot comment on it.”

Dr SB Punpale, Professor and HOD, Forensic, BJ medical College and Sasoon Hospital, said, “We have no vested interest in changing samples of any medico legal autopsy that is conducted at our institution. The CBI (Special crime team) has already recorded Dr Harish Tatya [statement] twice in connection to this case and he has explained his stand to them.”

A senior professor of forensic medicine requesting anonymity, said, “It is surprising that a suspicious death case was handled by the local investigating agency in such a clandestine manner. Forensic evidences need to be re-examined and findings must be verified.” The matter comes up in court next on January 5, 2016. Until then, it’s yet another traumatic wait for the Hasans.

Unanswered questions in police probe
The local police were informed by Ruby Hall hospital about Sanam’s death at 12 noon but they arrived at 2.30 pm. It is not clear why there was a delay of over two hours.

Why did the police not pay heed to Sanam’s parents’ request of videoshooting/ photographing the postmortem procedure?

Why did the police not visit the flat where the incident occurred and the party was on until early hours of October 3?

It is not clear why the police did not seal the house and videograph or photograph the inside.

Why weren’t forensic experts not called to conduct an immediate crime scene probe and collect evidence?

It is not clear why the police did not probe how liquor reached a party on October 2, a dry day. Most of the attendees were under 25 years of age.

Why weren’t Sanam’s clothes taken into custody and sent for chemical analysis? Same with the bedsheet on which she is said to have vomited during the party.

Why were two undergarments allegedly belonging to Sanam and a male handkerchief handed to Sanam’s parents (kept with them for six months, and after case transferred to CID, handed over to it but findings still pending).

Why did the police take 10 days to send the viscera samples for hystopathology and chemical analysis although the postmortem was done on October 3?

Why wasn’t her mobile phone seized and attempts made to retrieve missing data?

Why wasn’t a statement of the night watchman at the building where death occurred recorded, and why wasn’t he traced since he has been absconding since? And CCTV recordings from the society checked.

Why didn’t the police attempt to track all those present at the party that night?

It is not clear why the police did not collect blood samples of the friends present at time of incident.

It is not clear why the police did not probe the reason behind the mismatch of the viscera samples.

If the heart DNA test reports were not matching, why did the police not send the other viscera samples preserved for hystopathology findings (liver, spleen, kidney etc) for DNA analysis to rule out any foul play with the samples?

Medico flip flop
When SUNDAY mid-day showed the list of available documents including hospital treating papers, autopsy reports, hystopathology findings and DNA analysis reports to a professor and HOD, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, at a city based medical college, serious concerns about the lapses were raised.
Why did Ruby Hall wait two hours to inform the Yerwada police when they had declared Sanam dead at 10 am?
How was the first ECG conducted before admission papers were made?
It is not known why the resuscitation process started after a lapse of 38 minutes from the time of first ECG.

It is not known why at 10.40 am, another ECG was taken, when her father claims that by then the body was already kept in the mortuary (this paper is in possession of the mortuary receipt no 0503 dated 3/10/2015).

Questions concerning autopsy/ hystopathology findings
The body was received at BJM Medical College and Sasoon Hospital at 4.05 pm and autopsy started at 4.10 pm, lasting 55 minutes. The procedure was not videographed or photographed. It was not conducted by a panel of senior forensic experts. The doctor who conducted the autopsy was a student of first year MD (Forensic). The preliminary autopsy report does not carry a rubber stamp nor any superior forensic doctor’s signature.

It is not clear why there was hurry shown in start the autopsy within five minutes of receipt of body. Usually, the papers are examined (inquest panchnama, statement of relatives, requisition letter from police, etc) and body labeled by the mortuary attendant are then sent to forensic surgeon for studying. This usually takes 25 minutes. Also the forensic surgeon, clarifies his doubts by speaking to relatives of the deceased before starting the procedure. This was not done.

Why did the autopsy doctor not preserve nail clippings, pubic hair and scalp hair for chemical analysis when he preserved the vaginal swab?

It is not clear why the autopsy surgeon did not mention the condition of the hymen (intact, torn and if so, was it recent or old tear), in the postmortem report

It is not clear why the viscera was preserved in formaline solution rather than simple common salt, especially when the viscera had to be preserved

It is not clear how the gender of the deceased in the final hystopathology report was shown as ‘Male’ instead of Female.

It is unclear as to why the doctors conducting the hystopathology tests on the heart did not communicate with the postmortem doctor about the suspected findings of 70 % narrowing of lumen and the old, healed infract, suggesting a previous heart attack before preparing the final report

First Published: 06 December, 2015 07:10 IST

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