The Delhi Police and the Delhi state authorities have been delaying the DNA testing of charred and decomposed bodies found in the aftermath of the Hindutva mob-led violence which broke out in North-East Delhi on February 24. Several of these men have been missing since February 25 and their bodies were found after February 27.
Three of these particularly distressing cases reached the Delhi High Court mid-last week and the court slammed the Delhi government and the Forensic Science Laboratory in Rohini for delaying the testing despite having got the samples at least 10 days earlier.
Shahbaz, Ameen and Mohsin have been missing since February 25 and two of these bodies were found in a charred condition and one was fished out of Bhagirathi naala in a partially decomposed state.
The 22-year-old Shahbaz went missing on February 25. He had gone to the Guru Nanak Hospital at Daryaganj and was returning home to Loni, but the route to his home through West Karawal Nagar and Khajuri Pusta Road was where the most intense communal violence occurred. His last call to his father was at 2.30 pm stating that he had reached Khajuri Pusta and that he would reach home in an hour. And then his phone went unreachable. They complained to the police but by February 27, the family realised that they would have to check hospitals and the morgues to find him.
On the night of February 27, a charred body was brought to GTB Hospital and on February 28, the local police station informed Shahbaz’s brother Matloob Alam about the body and asked him to ascertain if it was Shahbaz. “Matloob verified that the body was that of his brother and then the DNA samples were taken on February 29 by the local Information Officer (IO) at the police station. But, the IO did not send the sample for testing until March 5 and on the same date, the case gets transferred to the Crime Branch,” said Sonakshi, one of the advocates handling the case.
The lab is supposed to give a report in 15 days in case of charred bodies as the testing is conducted by taking the bone marrow, but in case of decomposed bodies, the report should be given in less than 10 days.
The IO at the Crime Branch sent the samples to FSL Rohini for testing with the note that it should be done on priority. However, until March 17, there was no news of the sample. “We filed a writ petition on March 18 praying for expedition of DNA testing. In this case, 15 days had passed and all that the state counsel could say was that the testing had begun. The court directed them to give the report by March 31. The Bench headed by Anup Bhambhani enquired if there were standard operating procedures in such cases, to which the state did not respond clearly,” added Sonakshi. Shahbaz’s case will be heard on March 27.
“The court has kept the case pending as it wants to frame guidelines in such cases as there are no guidelines that can be followed. The court stated that there should be SoPs so that such essential matters are dealt with in a timely and evenhanded manner without leaving the affected parties to the discretion, whims and fancies of the authorities,” explained another lawyer for Shahbaz’s brother. He did not want to be named.
What was a joyous occasion for 17-year-old Amin’s family turned to a nightmare. He had gotten out of his home at Haazrat in Uttar Pradesh on February 25 to head to a relative’s wedding. After the wedding, he had to go to his uncle’s house in Old Mustafabad where he was working as a casual day labourer. Amin went for the wedding, but never reached his uncle’s house. The family kept searching and they registered a complaint at Gokulpuri police station.
On March 1 and 2, five dead bodies were recovered from the Bhagirathi Naala and the were sent to RML Hospital for post-mortem and DNA testing. Then they were shifted to GTB Hospital for preservation at the morgue, but they had begun to decompose. Of these five bodies, 3 were identified.
“Amin’s family still had no news of these bodies. Once the bodies were transferred to GTB Hospital, Amin’s family was asked to identify the body. On March 14, Amin’s body was identified by clothes that was wearing, but the local IO insisted that the DNA test must be done because the post-mortem report had stated that the religion of the dead body could not be ascertained. The family had also approached the SHO at Gokulpuri stating that they had identified the body. However, no one seemed inclined to believe them,” underscored Sonakshi.
On March 15, the samples for DNA testing were taken from the family members and the body. The police had promised that the body would be released soon after. That was not to be so. “On March 17, the IO stated that it would take more than a week for the DNA test results. Eventually, the family approached the Delhi High Court, who asked the police and FSL to expedite the matter. The court directed the results to be shared before March 27,” said another advocate handling the case. He did not want to be named.
Mohsin, who ran a successful generator business, drove from his shop on February 25 at Sector 5 of Noida to go to Green Gardens at Sabhapur, near Loni. He was called to venue because the generators were showing sings of trouble. He had to pass through Khajuri Pusta road and he never reached his destination. From February 26 onwards, his family went around hospitals and morgues in the area to search for him. On February 27, they heard that the remains of a charred car was lying on the Khajuri flyover and a body was found next to it. After they identified the car, they rush to GTB to identify the body. For a whole day, they were not allowed to identify the body.
On February 28, the DAN samples were taken from the family to identify the body. But it is sent to FSL Rohini only on March 3. Even after two week, when the family did not get any result, they filed a petition. “When the case was heard on March 18, the authorities at FSL Rohini stated that they had not started the process of DNA testing even after 15 days. They said that they were waiting for orders from the court to start the testing. But, when court asked if they had to wait for such orders, the lawyer for the Delhi government and FSL Rohini stated that there was no law which stated so,” asserted Sonakshi.
Additionally, the Delhi government lawyer said that they would require 15 days to conduct the DNA tests. The court directed the FSL Rohini to submit the results by April 2 and inform the family immediately.