The Telegraph
Sunday , August 7 , 2016

Hotel accused test negative

Patna, Aug. 6: No alcohol has been found in the blood samples of seven businessmen who were arrested from a city hotel on April 26 for allegedly consuming and possessing liquor, says the report of the state government's Forensic Science Laboratory.

The report, which has been submitted to the police headquarters, corroborates the findings of the medical examination of the businessmen conducted at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) around two hours after their arrest, in which the doctors had found that the accused were not under the influence of alcohol.

The police have launched a probe into the matter, focusing on whether there has been an error or "compromise" in the case, touted as the first big action after the imposition of total prohibition on April 5.

Director-general of police (DGP) P.K. Thakur told The Telegraph: "We are looking into all angles and whether there was any problem in the FSL report. The probe is being led by the additional director-general, CID. Once he submits his report, we will take appropriate measures."

Thakur added that there was other evidence like liquor bottles seized from the room of the hotel from where the businessmen were arrested.

The seven accused businessmen, all from Surat in Gujarat, are at present out on bail.

Senior officials in the home department said normally three blood samples are collected and sent to three different forensic labs in the country in important cases to cut down chances of mistakes or corruption at any level. But in this particular case, just one sample each - that too a small quantity - was taken from the accused and was sent to just one lab, the one in Patna.

"All the samples were of just 2ml each and nothing was left after they were forensically analysed. Normally samples collected by doctors are of around 5ml. So we have nothing that could be re-tested or sent to other laboratories. We cannot take fresh samples as it would serve no purpose," a senior police official said, under cover of anonymity.

The police official also pointed out that no medical board was constituted even after the PMCH doctors said the accused were not under the influence of alcohol, while another lacuna was that the blood samples taken on April 26 were received at FSL only on May 9.

The senior scientific officer who conducted the tests at FSL is on holiday and is supposed to return to Patna on Monday.

Patna doctor Diwakar Tejaswi pointed out that preservatives are put in blood samples, but even then holding them for a long time before tests may hamper accuracy in results.

"Even otherwise, a 2ml sample size is too small. Ideally, blood tests should be initiated within 12 to 24 hours, because after that blood's own metabolic activity starts, which could compromise the accuracy of results. A person is considered intoxicated if 0.08 per cent alcohol is detected in the blood," he said.

Legal experts are of the opinion that the FSL result may have serious implications and raise questions about the use and misuse of the prohibition laws.

Patna High Court advocate Vindhyachal Singh, who has supervised several liquor related cases after the declaration of prohibition, told The Telegraph: "The FSL report may imply that the prosecution was falsifying the matter. Consumption of liquor has come as negative. Possession of liquor as per the Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016 is not illegal and the high court has also ruled it. This could mean the accused were jailed without any crime."

"If the FSL report was not manipulated, then all this amounts to misuse of law, atrocity by the police on the people and violation of their fundamental rights. If the prohibition law has been brought for social reform, it should be people friendly. If the negative FSL report has been due to smaller size of samples than necessary, it could be seen as lack of professionalism and negligence on the part of the police, which is expected to be aware of these things," Vindhyachal added.

Excise officials tried to wash their hands of the matter.

"The case was filed by the police. We were not involved in it. If there are flaws, the court will deliver a suitable judgment. The matter is sub-judice," assistant excise commissioner and excise department public relations officer Om Prakash Mandal said.

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