Kanpur: Kin of income tax official keep his body at home for 17 months
Income-tax official Vimlesh Sonkar’s family members, who kept his body at home in Kanpur for 17 months after his death, will undergo psychological evaluation, police said
Income-tax official Vimlesh Sonkar’s family members, who kept his body at home in Kanpur for 17 months after his death in the belief that he was alive, will undergo psychological evaluation after brief questioning by police concluded on Monday.
Sonkar, who died in April last year, was cremated on Sunday, but his parents still strongly believe he was in coma before the funeral, people aware of the matter said.
Kanpur police have asked the district administration to form a panel of psychiatrists to speak to the family members, including Sonkar’s father Ram Avtar, mother Ram Dulari, wife Mitali and brothers Sunil Kumar and Dinesh Kumar.
It was necessary to understand why the family chose to keep the body at home even after the man was declared dead, Kanpur police commissioner BP Jogdand said. “We have asked the administration to form a panel; the health department is looking into it,” he said, ruling out any legal action against the family.“Police have taken legal opinion and there’s nothing to construe that the family broke any law.”
A panel would be sent for psychological evaluation, chief medical officer Dr Alok Ranjan said. The decision was reached after a police team led by additional DCP Lakhan Yadav spoke to the family members again.
Yadav did not offer any comment.
Sonkar was posted with the income tax department in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. His family lived in Rawatpur locality of Kanpur. His wife Mitali Dixit is a manager with a cooperative bank in Ghatampur in Kanpur. They have two children—a five-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter.
Sonkar returned home in March last year on medical leave from Ahmedabad after apparently contracting Covid-19. Ram Avtar said he was taken to a hospital in Rawatpur on April 15, 2021. “The doctor gave him an injection and thereafter he could not regain consciousness. Sometime later, they declared him dead and issued a certificate,” the father said.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr OP Gautam, who has a copy of the death certificate, said Sonkar died of cardiac arrest as per the doctors of the hospital.
Mohammad Tahir, who runs a hardware shop just opposite the apartment, said everyone learnt about the death. The entire market was closed and people were helping with the funeral arrangements, he said.“I paid for wood for pyre and panditji (priest),” he added. “Suddenly, we were told Vimlesh was breathing again but not opening his eyes. All of us thought a miracle happened.”
Ashish Tiwari, who lives nearby, recalled the parents said the pulse oximeter was giving a reading and that they could feel him breathe.
“I massaged his body with oil. He was breathing, his forehead used to twitch,” the mother claimed, asserting, “My son was alive when he was forcibly taken away. We could do nothing.”
The air conditioner in the room was never switched off. The room was cleaned thoroughly every day.
“The body was kept in a controlled environment and apparently embalmed on a regular basis. We have asked the family about the paste being applied on the body, but they have chosen to remain silent,” Dr Gautam said.
Police questioning revealed that the family was in touch with a doctor whose identity is being established and he would be questioned too, said an officer not willing to be named.
The Ahmedabad income-tax office, which had been receiving leave applications from Sonkar’s family on medical grounds, got an anonymous letter early this month about his death and the family keeping the body in the house. The office got in touch with its Kanpur office, which wrote to the chief medical officer to confirm whether Sonkar was dead or alive.
“The family members insisted he was alive. We did an ECG first in the house and then at LLR hospital to confirm the death. The family did not believe it,” Dr Ranjan said.
Ram Avtar urged the authorities not to send the body for autopsy and his request was granted on the assurance that the body would be cremated within 24 hours. The funeral was held at Kanpur’s Bhairon Ghat.
Initial police investigation suggested the family had first sent the death certificate to the income-tax office in Ahmedabad, followed by a leave application stating Sonkar was in a coma.
In the past 17 months, the family had the salary stopped, but did not seek pension or medical benefits associated with Sonkar’s service, police commissioner Jogdand said.