The father of an Indian Military Academy (IMA) cadet, who died in the academy’s swimming pool on August 3, on Saturday said the army delayed handing over the body to his family.
Sabu Verghese, 24, died on Monday during diving practice when his head accidentally hit the floor of the pool, IMA officials said.
When he didn’t come up after the dive, fellow cadets dived in to rescue him. It took them nearly three minutes to rush him to the military hospital. Verghese succumbed to his injuries midway, IMA officials said.
His father P J Verghese, 55, a casual labourer in Ambalavayal village, in Kerala’s Wyanad District, 450 kilometres north of Thiruvananthapuram, said the body was sent home in a highly decomposed state without embalming. His brother alleged a foul smell emanated from it.
“We were shocked. Had they informed us, we could have paid for the embalming,” said Shalu Verghese, 20, a part-time hotel employee.
The army has refuted the claim.
“The body was embalmed not once but twice in Dehradun and Delhi. The army did everything to ensure that it reached Kerala as soon as possible,” said a senior officer on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Experts are not convinced. “Done properly, there’s no need to embalm the body again for at least two weeks. The fact that the army repeated it the very next day, indicates something was amiss,” said Dr R.K. Sharma, former head of the forensic department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.
Verghese drowned on August 3 and his body was brought to Delhi the next day. His father had to wait till Thursday evening to catch his last glimpse.
The family received an anonymous call on Saturday alleging foul play. “We are in the dark. But we don’t want to create an unnecessary controversy” said his father.
IMA spokesman Brigadier SA Wardhan said the accident took place during a swimming class in the presence of several cadets, instructors and officials. “Foul play is ruled out.”
The IMA, which became functional from October 1, 1932, is the premier officer training school of the Indian Army.