Wednesday 07 Jun 2023

Lack of forensic report leaves drug overdose cases in limbo

VIBHA VERMA | APRIL 26, 2023, 11:24 PM IST
Lack of forensic report leaves drug overdose cases in limbo

Less than 12 months ago, the State was rocked by four incidents of drug overdose, tragically resulting in the death of two victims. Two other tourists miraculously pulled through the near-fatal situation; however, these incidents reignited the debate surrounding the prevalence of narcotics in Goa, particularly the coastal belt.

Investigations into three cases are inconclusive due to the pending results of victim samples. The exception is BJP leader Sonali Phogat’s death where the forensic tests were conducted by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) Chandigarh with exceptional speed. The case is charge-sheeted and the lab test ascertained she was drugged.

The State Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), Verna, comparatively seems slow. Among several other cases awaiting resolution, three overdose cases have reportedly encountered obstacles as law enforcement officials are awaiting the crucial forensic toxicology reports from the FSL. One of these cases involves the son of a former minister from Uttar Pradesh.

The death of a Puducherry visitor was the first to hit the headlines, pushing Goa into the negative limelight yet again. The 21-year-old student arrived with his friends on August 12, 2023, to celebrate the long Independence Day weekend. He died in mysterious circumstances after attending a series of late-night parties in Calangute, Anjuna, and Saligao on August 16. The Saligao police sent his viscera samples to the State FSL Laboratory for chemical analyses. The report is awaited! But it's not the absence of the report alone, non-cooperation from the deceased’s friends and family is also disappointing.

Uncooperative witnesses and the family’s reluctance to go ahead with the probe have purportedly put a spoke in the wheel.  

The police have sent his viscera samples to State Forensic Science Laboratory, Verna for chemical analyses, which will give clarity to the case. Sources said the deceased’s friends and family could be quizzed again if the forensic report confirms a drug overdose. The report is however not expected anytime soon. While the investigation has hit a roadblock, two other cases have met the same fate.

The B-Tech student from Andhra Pradesh, who survived a drug overdose, is neither arrested – as asserted by the police after his recovery - nor has the toxicology report arrived from State FSL.

Devineni Trilok Chaudhary and two of his two friends arrived in Goa on a short vacation on September 20. En route to Calangute via a tourist taxi, where they had booked a hotel for their stay, the trio claimed they were offered cocaine by the driver. “Chaudhary consumed about 1 gm of cocaine but soon complained of uneasiness after which he was rushed to the GMCH. He fortunately survived,” the police said.

While the driver was subsequently identified as Prathamesh Palyekar from Vasco and arrested, another team was expected to leave for AP to connect with the victim-turned-accused to join the probe.  The case is pending due to an ‘examination report’ from the FSL.

The other case that also caught the attention was that of a Delhi tourist Sara Khan. In fact, she and her male friend Dr Abhishek Singh have been made the accused given that they consumed drugs at a party. However, without the FSL report to confirm the presence of drugs in the accused’s body, levelling charges against them could be difficult and the duo, both of whom left for their respective states, might have an advantage.

The Calangute police had sent Khan's urine samples for a test at GMCH, and the FSL to ascertain the observation made by a private laboratory.

“A private laboratory confirmed the presence of drugs but we want to ascertain this through the government lab. Therefore, samples collected for the private test were later sent to GMCH and FSL,” an official said. The police are tight-lipped about whether Dr Singh had to undergo the analysis examination. Moreover, the man who allegedly supplied drugs continues to remain unidentified, and hence untraceable. 

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