My autistic son was killed, but cops are hounding me: Hyd woman's fight for justice

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My autistic son was killed, but cops are hounding me: Hyd woman's fight for justice

It has been close to two years since Sanghamitra's only son, 18-year-old Rudransh, was found dead at the Sannidhi – Residential Centre for Life Skills in Hyderabad on June 17, 2017. Rudransh, fondly known as Romy, was living with autism and was living at the centre, which is a unit of the Sankar Foundation, from 2012. While the institute has denied any wrongdoing, the police stated that he was murdered. However, justice for her son remains elusive. 

While the police have filed a case under Section 302 (Murder) and 201 (Causing disappearance of evidence of offence) of the IPC against two caretakers at the centre and also filed a chargesheet, Sanghamitra says that the institute has been left scot-free even though she has been demanding that the founders be booked for negligence. Even worse, the police have now filed a case against her, as she continues to demand justice for her son.

The post-mortem examination (PME) report, (a copy of which is with TNM) stated that Romy had died around 18 hours before the autopsy, suggesting that he had died at around 9 pm on June 16. While the institute said that they had given the child heavy psychiatric medicines as he was being aggressive, they found him dead the next day. Citing the chargesheet filed by the police, Sanghamitra pointed out that the caretakers of the centre throttled her son, killed him, and preserved his body in an AC room.

Sanghamitra also claims that there was a long delay in investigating the homicide, as she had to make multiple representations to the police and later had to wait for a report from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL).

"Ram Prasad, principal of the school at the centre allowed this to happen and didn't intervene. They even called him for questioning but he has not been named in the chargesheet, neither as a witness nor as an accused. The police too, only submitted a blanket as evidence. Despite the PME report, did they not care to preserve the evidence?" she asks.

Institute not booked

"When I asked that a case of negligence should be booked against the institute, the police said that a fresh complaint had to be filed so a separate case could be registered. On July 1, before submitting my second complaint, I visited the school along with another person who was shooting a film related to people with disabilities and wanted to profile my case. The school refused permission to shoot any videos, but I still signed my name in the register and went inside without filming anything, following all due procedure, as I had the right as the mother of a child who studied there," Sanghamitra says. 

The second complaint demands appropriate action against the management under The Rights Of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 as Sanghamitra suspected that her son was also sexually abused at the centre, besides relevant sections of the IPC.

After this, Sanghamitra says that she continued following up on her second complaint, but an FIR is yet to be registered. Meanwhile, despite a chargesheet being filed in the first case, the two accused who were arrested got bail.

"The lawyer fighting the case for the two accused is the institute's lawyer only. This shows that the management was involved not only in the crime, but also the cover-up" Sanghamitra claims.

Case against her

On March 21, Sanghamitra was in for a rude shock after she received a notice from the police stating that a case had been filed against her.

The notice was based on a complaint by Daamugunta Sri Srinivas Reddy, a senior management official of the centre, and an FIR had been lodged against her under  Sections 448 (Tresspass), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (Criminal Intimidation) read with 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC.

"The accused willfully wanted to shoot a film to mislead the people, government and judiciary, and entered into the centre...they shot a film and took photos and videos of people with mental disabilities. The complainant received a phone call from his staff regarding the incident and he rushed to the place. By the time he reached, the accused threatened (the staff) with dire consequences and left. Hence, the complainant requested to take necessary action," the FIR states.

However, Sanghamitra denies the allegations and points out that she had taken due permission and the accused had taken more than 24 hours to file a complaint. "They planned to trap me and the case was filed against me because I have refused to back down and I am constantly pursuing the death with authorities," she said.

She even shot off a letter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on July 26, 2018, where she wrote, "Looking at the severe atrocity of the crime and the amount of cover ups state police is been doing till date, to have a fair investigation of the case not just for justice to my son but many such unfortunate kids who might have already suffered the abuse by the institute as well the rescue of the kids who are still stuck among those anti-social elements (sic)."

"I just don't know where it ends. I am not backing out and following up on the case continuously. As a result, they are seeking to overpower me as I am not willing to compromise. I just want closure and justice for my son's death," she says, disheartened but not defeated.