Chennai: A division bench of the Madras High Court referred to the Chief Justice an appeal filed by the father of the sole accused in the murder of a woman techie, challenging a single judge's order, rejecting the plea for a doctor of his choice to be present during the autopsy of his son, who allegedly committed suicide in prison.
The bench of Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh and Justice S Vaidyanathan, who differed in their views on the prayer of appellant R Paramasivan, father of P Ramkumar, directed that the appeal be placed before the Chief Justice for getting the opinion of a third judge.
Justice TS Sivagnanam had on Tuesday turned down the plea of the petitioner and appointed a panel of four government doctors to conduct the autopsy on the body of Ramkumar, who died on 18 September after reportedly biting a live wire at Puzhal Central Prison, where he was lodged.
Challenging the order, Ramkumar's father filed the appeal seeking a direction that one of the doctors during the post-mortem should be of his choice to ensure transparency since it was a custodial death.
He wanted Dr P Sampathkumar, Vice Principal and HoD, Ramachandra Medical College, Porur, to be present during the post-mortem.
When the bench said the doctor was from a private institution, the appellant's counsel cited Supreme Court judgments, allowing the presence of a doctor of the victims' choice.
Opposing this, Additional Advocate General Mani said the government had nominated reputed doctors. If the appellant had any doubt, he could challenge the post-mortem report but could not seek a doctor of his choice on "mere apprehension".
Besides, he said, the appellant had not questioned the competency of the doctors appointed by the government.
After the submissions, the judges expressed a difference of opinion on allowing a doctor of the appellant's choice.
Justice Ramesh was for allowing an independent forensic expert to be present during the autopsy, saying it would be in no way prejudicial to the case of the prosecution and would, in effect, fortify the stand of the state about its fairness.
However, Justice Vaidyanathan, concurring with the view of the AAG, said an independent person with forensic knowledge would, in fact, lead to creating a doubt in the minds of the public about the arbitrary nature of the conduct of the state machinery. He suggested one more government doctor in the panel, instead of an independent person of the appellant's choice.
"Since there exists a difference of opinion with regard to appointment of an independent person to be present at the time of autopsy, between us, Registry is directed to place the matter before the Hon'ble Chief Justice for listing it before a third Hon'ble judge for his opinion," the bench said.
It also ordered that the autopsy be not conducted till the decision was taken by the third judge.
Ramkumar was arrested for allegedly hacking to death Swathi, a software engineer, on 24 June at Nungambakkam suburban railway station.