Is Babita Gawde’s Death a Police Custodial Death?

GoaChronicle.com pieces together the starling facts surrounding the death of Babita Gawde – a lady who according to the Bicholim police was a prime accused in the murder of Babi Mote, however documents from the Bicholim Primary Health Centre indicate that the accused was in their hospital at the time of the murder. While Police reports say no injuries on accused body and death due to natural causes, Primary Health Centre contradict the police reports. Even the police officer and constable statements contradict the sequence of events. So much so the Sub Divisional Magistrate enquiry in the custodial death is questionable. GC investigates

In a letter No PI/BICH/Cr.50-11/2011/2602 dated 19/03/2011 and addressed to the Deputy Collector & Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) on the subject ‘Enquiry of custodial death U/S 176 CrPC signed by Harish V Madkaikar, Police Inspector, Bicholim Police Station.

We highlight three important points of this letter:

1.Further it was learnt that Rajani (Babita) Gawde was admitted into the Bicholim Primary Health Centre (PHC) on 22/02/2011 and discharged 24/02/2011. However, she did not leave the hospital and continued staying in the hospital ward. It was also reliably learnt that on 25/02/2011 after dinner Rajani deserted herself from the hospital for about two hours and thereafter returned back to hospital, in the late evening wearing wet clothes.

2.Rajani Gawde was found at the scene of the offence in a suspicious manner and she could not answer question properly put to her, so she was brought to the Police Station at 6.30 am for interrogation on 04/03/2011. During her interrogation admitted to commission of the crime on 04/03/2011. She was harassed and tortured by the victim, due to which she committed his murder by assaulting him on his head with a sickle. Rajani Gawde was arrested on 04/03/2011 at 9.20 am after explaining her the grounds of her arrest.

3.Thereafter while returning from Goa Medical College (GMC) in Bambolim, the accused lady was referred to medical examination as per guidelines of the Supreme Court. The Medical Officer on duty Dr. Medha Salakar certified the accused person to be fit to be lodged in police lock-up.

Police Inspector Harish Madkaikar statements to the SDM – 01/04/2011

1.Rajani alias Babita was brought to the police station at 6.30 am and she was interrogated.
2.At 9.20 am she was arrested as the prime accused in the murder case of Babi Mote.
3.In the night of 04/03/2011 Rajani was further interrogated to get the sequence of event of the murder.
4.On 05/03/2011 Rajani was further interrogated/questioned by me to get further details of the crime.

Police Contradiction on Hospital Dates

In a report of the Government of Goa Directorate of Health Services document in GoaChronicle.com possession states that Rajani Narvekar (Gawde) was in the hospital from 22/02/2011 to 02/03/2011.

According to Girish Pednekar, Health Officer, Primary Health Centre, Bicholim states in an RTI query that Rajani Gawde was admitted twice i.e. On 10/02/2011 at 10 am for the first time and discharged on 12/02/2011. On 22/02/2011 at 8.30 pm she was admitted again as Rajani Narvekar and discharged on 02/03/2011 in the morning for the second time. No discharge card was issued to the patient. The same is written on the admission paper with the patient signature ‘Thumb Impression’. On second admission on 22/03/2011 she was diagnosed as a case of Oral Candidlases.

At no point of time does the hospital indicate or show that Rajani Gawde (Narvekar) has left the hospital premises or return to the hospital in wet clothes. This point becomes important because it raises question to the theory of the police department who are say that she left the hospital on 25/02/2011 and returned back to the hospital in wet clothes. Someone in the hospital would have noticed that she left or returned in wet clothes.

Dr Medha Salkar issued on 31/03/2011 to the SDM also states on 04/03/2011 that Rajani Gawde is fit for lock up. It further states that she had no complaints about health except for pain and burning sensation in epigastriun. On systemic examination it was found that her respiratory system was clear i.e. breath sound normal, respiratory rate 14-16 per minute and on auscultation, there was no additional sounds. It also states that Rajani Gawde had not complained to me about any torture by Bicholim police to her.

Police Constables statements on Police Inspector Interrogation & Contradictions

According to Sneha Shamsundar Gawas, LPC Buckle No 4042 in her statement to the SDM, she says the accused Rajani Gawde was brought to Police Station at 7.00 am on 04/03/2011. Sneha Gawas is the constable who accompanied PI Madkaikar to the scene of the offence where Rajani Gawde was present as per the intimation of the Police Constable (Robin) Vishnu Gawas. Strangely the contradiction is that PI Madkaikar says Rajani Gawde was brought to the police station at 6.30 am, police constable present during the pick-up of Rajani Gawde says 7.00 am. Sneha Gawas further states that at 11 am on the 05/03/2011 PI Madkaikar interrogates Rajani Gawde.

According to Neeta Hemant Kotkar, LPC Buckle No 5224 in her statement to SDM, she makes some very important points. Firstly, that the fit for lock up certificate was issued by Dr Medha Salkar of PHC, Bicholim. Secondly, Rajani Gawde was once again interrogated at 5pm by PI Madkaikar on 05/03/2011. Thirdly, that on 06/03/2011 between 1pm and 5pm Rajani Gawde was not interrogated by PI Madkaikar as he was on law and order duty (Bandobast) at Sanquelim.

But Mamta Suryaji Desai, LPC Buckle No 6591 in her statement to the SDM says that on 06/03/2011 that PI Madkaikar questioned Rajani Gawde in his office at 10 am for about half an hour.

Office of SDM Enquiry and Panchnama Report

The Panchnama report in front of the SDM witnesses Laxman Jairam Malwankar and Sandhya Dessai very clearly states that there is no injury marks found on the body of Rajani Gawde.
But in the enquiry report on the Custodial Death by Deputy Collector and SDM N M Gad, it states that in the post-mortem report it is reported that two injuries on the knees of Rajani Gawde are caused by blunt force and these injuries are of 05-10 days duration before the death and the injuries are not sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. Though the report does not have an official date of commencement or which authority it has been sent to within its contents it indicates that SDM commenced his enquiry on 07/03/2011.

The report also states that Rajani Gawde was arrested by the Bicholim police on 04/03/2011.
The report further states that the case of death as per Autopsy reports is due to left pleural effusion with collapse and consolidation of lungs – A natural clause.

It also mentions Dr SY Talwar of Bicholim PHC. In his statement Dr Talwar has deposed that he had examined Rajani Gawde and observed that the patient was having difficulty manual breathing i.e. her accessory respiratory muscles were involved in breathing. The doctor further deposed that she was suffering from pneumonia. And that pneumonia may not have come to her due to some physical torture.

It also mentions that Dr Medha Salkar when questioned stated that the pleural cavity would have been developed subsequently after her examination and collection of fluid in the pleural cavity would be due to some infection.

But here are the contradictions to the SDM enquiry report –

In another letter to the Medical Officer SY Talwar of Bicholim PHC on 19/4/2011, with regards the inquiry of the custodial death of Rajani Gawde, she says,

“I have examined Rajani Gawde on 04/03/2011 and not 04/11/2011 as stated in the letter. On that day, the respiratory system, was examined by me was clear and there was no fluid collection of/in pleural cavity. In case of pneumonia, if the disease process was taking place the signs and symptoms would have occurred over a period of seven days either in the first half or in the later half i.e. 48-72 hours in a normal person. The procedure followed by me in issuing the fit for lock certificate was proper taking all the vital and clinical parameters into account. I hope you will forward this explanation to the Deputy Collector at the earliest.”

Forensic Report

According to the Department of Forensic Medicine, GMC, a report conducted by Dr Edmundo Rodrigues and Dr Manohar Kantak state that the deceased Rajani Gawde died due to left pleural effusion with collapse and consolidation of lungs – a natural cause. And it also notice injuries caused to the right and left knee of the deceased by a blunt object but not enough to cause death.

GC questions

1.Even after the admittance of Rajani Gawde to the crime in the morning of 04/03/2011 and subsequent arrest at 9.20 am. Why did the PI Madkaikar find it necessary to continue with the interrogations at different right up to the morning of 06/03/2011?
2.Why is it that PC Sneha Gawas say that the Rajani Gawde was brought to the police station at 7.00 am but PI Madkaikar says 6.30 am?
3.Why is not statement recorded of the PC Vishnu Gawas who was the first person to identify Rajani Gawde at the scene of the offence?
4.When did the SDM initiate the enquiry into the custodial death and to whom was the report forwarded too?
5.Why does the SDM in its initial Panchnama report not indicate the injuries on the right and left knee of Rajani Gawde, but admits it in the enquiry reports post the post-mortem findings of injuries on the knee but also states in the enquiry report that there are no injuries on the body found?
6.Why is Dr Medha Salkar clarification letter sent to Bicholim PHC Medical Officer SY Talwar not a part of the SDM enquiry report where it clearly states the SY Talwar observations are not in compliance to Dr Medha Salkar version?

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