Aruna Shanbaug's shrieks and shouts echo in SC
A 10-minute CD played in the courtroom to show victim’s plight
For 37 years, she has been lying in a vegetative state at a Mumbai hospital. A victim of sexual assault, Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug’s shrieks and shouts echoed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday as a Bench of the court examined a mercy killing plea, filed on her behalf by a friend.
A 10-minute CD was played in the courtroom before the Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra to present before them Aruna’s plight.
The recording showed Aruna writhing in excruciating pain on a bed of KEM hospital where she worked as nurse till November 27, 1973, when she was chained like a dog and sodomised by a ward boy.
The ward boy was said to have been harbouring anger against Aruna over her persistent scolds.
It was a moving 10-minute in the packed courtroom. The CD showed that Aruna was conscious and moving her twisted wrists, albeit making sounds of pain.
The audio-visual play vividly put forth that she was not in a comatose state and is spoon-fed mashed food. Devotional songs by Sadguru Wamanrao Pai is played in the background.
But not everyone in the courtroom agreed with the description that Aruna was in a vegetative state. Therefore, notwithstanding what the CD might have intended to portray, there was strong disapproval of the mercy killing plea.
The opposition to the mercy killing plea came from none other than Dr Sanjay Narhari Oak, KEM hospital director.
Oak made a written submission before the Bench, contending that Aruna’s shouts and shrieks have nothing to do with presence of other persons in her hospital room.
“It is not true that she shouts after seeing a man. I do not think Aruna can distinguish between a man and a woman,” he said. She likes listening to songs by Sadguru and grimaces if the tape records were switched off, he said.
The doctor said that the victim liked having non-vegetarian food.
“It appears that she relishes fish and occasionally smiles when she is given non-vegetarian food. Since September last, after she developed malaria and her oral intake began to drop, Aruna is being fed through a tube.
“All these years she was never fed by tube and whenever a nurse used to take food to her lips, she used to swallow it. However, if small morsels are held near her lips, Aruna accepts them gladly,” he said.
Dr Oak vehemently opposed the idea of withdrawing food or putting her to sleep by active medication (mercy killing).
“Not once in this long sojourn of 37 years, anybody (at the hospital) has thought of putting an end to her so-called vegetative existence,” he said.
He went on: “Aruna has probably crossed 60 years of life and would one day meet her natural end,” he said.