Death of Navreet Singh: X-ray report inconsistent with postmortem; grandfather and doctors question authenticity

18 April 2021
Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, the grandfather of Navreet Singh who died during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day, addresses farmers at the Ghazipur protest site on 13 February. That month, Dibdiba moved the Delhi High Court seeking an independent investigation into his grandson’s death, and for a copy of Navreet’s X-ray and post-mortem video.
ANI / Hindustan Times
Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, the grandfather of Navreet Singh who died during the farmers’ tractor rally on Republic Day, addresses farmers at the Ghazipur protest site on 13 February. That month, Dibdiba moved the Delhi High Court seeking an independent investigation into his grandson’s death, and for a copy of Navreet’s X-ray and post-mortem video.
ANI / Hindustan Times

On 15 April, in a case before the Delhi High Court for an independent investigation into the death of the farmer Navreet Singh, the Delhi Police submitted a medical report on his X-ray plates that is inconsistent with his post-mortem report. In compliance with the high court’s previous order, the Delhi government had constituted a medical board, comprised of three senior doctors from the Maulana Azad Medical College, to examine the X-ray plates of Navreet’s injuries and submit a report. The MAMC medical board’s opinion submitted on 5 April noted that the X-rays showed “fractures of the skull and facial bones,” and that there was “no metallic radio-opacity suggestive of foreign body.” In effect, the report supported the Delhi Police’s narrative that Navreet had not been shot, and died by a road accident. But these findings are inconsistent with Navreet’s post-mortem report, and conspicuous by their omissions.

Two senior government doctors, with decades of experience in government institutes, studied both documents and spoke to us—one on the record and the other off the record and willing to speak to a court or a government investigation, if required. The doctors said that the post-mortem described wounds that clearly revealed bullet injuries, and that claims in the medical report were false or misleading. They said that Navreet’s injuries were gunshot wounds and that the medical board’s X-ray report had ignored significant details mentioned in the post-mortem. The doctors also said that Navreet’s details were written on the X-ray plates with a white marker, noting that this was a significant deviation from standard practice—a fact acknowledged in the medical report as well.

“The injuries shown in the post-mortem and their nature, size, margins and site cannot be termed to have been caused by an accidental fall from a moving tractor,” Dr Pyare Lal Garg, a former professor of surgery, who was the dean at the faculty of medical sciences in Chandigarh’s Panjab University, said. Garg added that the injuries would have been caused by a “same size weapon.” He also noted that the post-mortem report has “no mention of the fracture of the skull bones and facial bones” as recorded in the X-ray report. He explained that the post-mortem report must “record any visible or palpable fracture, and if not, then one has to record that same shall be opined after X-ray,” which the post-mortem report does not reflect.

The second doctor, who served in a leading government medical institute until his retirement, spoke on the condition of anonymity, but agreed to testify before a court if necessary. “The kind of wounds mentioned in the post-mortem report of Rampur, Uttar Pradesh can only be firearm or gunshot wounds with no other explanation or possibility,” he said. “No metallic body was found inside since the bullet left the head.”

Navreet, a 25-year-old farmer from Rampur, in Uttar Pradesh, died on 26 January, while participating in the farmers’ tractor rally held in Delhi that day. As The Caravan reported after his death, eyewitnesses to the incident said that Delhi Police officials shot him outside the Andhra Education Society, in central Delhi, and this caused his tractor to overturn. The post-mortem report revealed injuries that, according to multiple forensic experts, could only be caused by bullets. The post-mortem report did not specify bullet wounds, and described the cause of death as “a result of antemortem head injury.” The media widely reported the police narrative, and that the post-mortem did not specify bullet wounds, but did not list the injuries described in the report. According to forensic experts in India and the United Kingdom—interviewed by The Caravan and The Guardian, respectively—who studied the report and the ante-mortem head injuries listed in it, these injuries were consistent with gunshot wounds.

Jatinder Kaur Tur is a senior journalist with two decades of experience with various national English-language dailies, including the Indian Express, the Times of India, the Hindustan Times and Deccan Chronicle.

Keywords: Navreet Singh Delhi Police Delhi High Court post-mortem
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