Imagine not knowing how your son died and getting no answers for 20 long years. Anuradha Paladhe has waged just such a battle against the Navy, whose authorities have not been forthcoming about the cause of death of her son, seaman Amar.
Now, the possibility for reinvestigation has opened up. The Hyderabad court’s April 2013 order acknowledged that Amar’s death, which occurred after he undertook a dive into the sea during an operational exercise, did occur under suspicious circumstances.
Amar was recruited by the Navy as Seaman-I, Clearance Diver No. III, and, in 1993, he was in the Eastern Naval Command Clearance Diving scheme.
He had jumped — during an exercise along the Kakinada coast on September 21, 1993 — from a helicopter into the sea. He did not, however, reach the shore as planned, and his body was found two days later.
When Ms. Paladhe, a former teacher and a resident of Thane district’s Dombivli, and her late husband Ashok Paladhe, received the information of their son’s death, they found the post-mortem report did not mention the cause of death. “ A Diatom test was directed to be conducted and due to gross negligence on part of the Navy, it was not conducted for a period of one year,” according to Sunil Ganu, Ms. Paladhe’s advocate.
While the official inquiry had been concluded even before completion of the Diatom test, its report had suggested that the incident was more than a mere accident and facts needed to be unearthed.
According to the report, the diving supervisor claimed to have seen Amar with his body bent forward and legs open. Mr. Ganu said this was very odd: “Divers don’t jump in this position as it makes for maximum friction with the water.”
The post-mortem report revealed that there were two ante-mortem injuries on Amar’s body. “One was a lacerated injury over the left arm and the other, a circular wound near the jaw. We have no explanation why these injuries happened to Amar when he was alive and was ready to jump. No effort was made to explain the injuries,” said Mr. Ganu.
The court observed that the deceased was a well-trained diver and was a “cut above the other divers” as per the admission of Navy officials. The court also pointed out inconsistencies in the deposition by Navy officials — at one point, they claimed Amar surfaced immediately after his dive and later claimed he was not visible on account of the helicopter’s turbulence.
‘Navy muffled issue’
Claiming that the Navy had tried to suppress the issue, Ms. Paladhe said: “These are the people whom we trust our nation’s security, who lie to a mother who has lost her son and try to save the culprits.” . She lost her husband in 2007 and has had to go it alone in search of justice since.
In 2004, the Kakinada district court ruled in favour of Amar’s parents and in its order said Amar Paladhe died as a result of negligence on the part of the authorities that conducted the operation.
The Navy approached the high court against the lower court’s order. However, the court not only dismissed the Navy’s petition, but also said “the death of the plaintiff occurred under suspicious and mysterious circumstances”. Mr. Ganu said the high court’s judgement had given her a chance to re-examine the entire case on criminal grounds.
“I would not have shed a single tear, had he lost his life in war, while serving the country. As a mother, I had prepared myself when he decided to join Indian Navy. But, isn’t it my right to know the reason of son’s death when there was no war?” asks Ms. Paladhe.
Ms. Paladhe has made it clear that her battle for justice has not ended. “I need to know the truth and I will now seek to reinvestigate the entire casez. Those who are guilty for my son’s death will have to be punished. I believe in India’s judiciary and I will get justice for my son,” she said.