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Centre turns down NRI couple’s request for child’s autopsy


New Delhi : A non-resident Indian (NRI) couple has sought India’s help in fixing the responsibility for their five-month-old daughter’s death in Britain seven years ago. But the government Thursday pleaded before a court that a second autopsy on the child’s body could lead to a “diplomatic row”.

Appearing before a Delhi High Court bench headed by Justice T.S. Thakur, the central government backtracked form its earlier statement directing the Delhi government to conduct the post-mortem examination on the child.

The government counsel said: “Serious diplomatic problem would arise if we allow the post-mortem to be conducted in the country as the alleged offence was conducted on a foreign land by a foreign citizen which is beyond our jurisdiction.”

“The letter written by the government should not be taken as its stand on the issue. We do not subscribe to the letter anymore and we would withdraw it,” the government counsel said. “Unless we get a request from UK authorities, the post-mortem (examination) could not be done.” He added.

The bench at the last hearing observed: “It is difficult for us also to see the family of the girl fighting a legal battle just for the post-mortem on her body. The delay on the part of the government defies all logical explanation.”

The government informed the court that the Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) had expressed reservations in conducting the autopsy as the child had died in another country.

The couple arrived with their daughter Sunaina’s body in March, and alleged that she had died in a British hospital in 2000 due to medical negligence.

Sadhna Chaudhary, the child’s mother, approached the high court for direction to the government to conduct the second post-mortem examination as the government had declined her request.

The Directorate of Health Services had referred the case to the Delhi government, asking it to conduct the autopsy in the MAMC. But it was delayed because of absence of legal guidelines to deal with such cases.

The mother alleged that her child had died under mysterious circumstances in a British hospital in 2000 and the British authorities were protecting the hospital. The post-mortem examination in Britain – which gave a clean chit to the hospital – was not done properly, she maintained.

On the couple’s representation, the external affairs ministry referred the case to the health ministry, which then directed the Delhi government to conduct the inquest.

The central government, however, said that this was done due to “legal ignorance” and it did not stand for another inquest now.