NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has arrested the police and state administration of Uttar Pradesh over their failure to locate an 82-year-old Covid patient who disappeared from a hospital in Prayagraj over a year ago and his “habit” of not complying with Allahabad High Court. directions.
“It has become a habit with you. You (state) are not complying with (High Court) instructions and at the last minute when contempt is sought you go to that court,” observed on Friday a judge headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana.
The panel, which also includes Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, however agreed to suspend the High Court’s April 25 order ordering eight state officials, including two additional chief secretaries, to remain personally present at the High Court on Friday.
The High Court directive was issued on a habeas corpus petition filed by Rahul Yadav, son of retired junior engineer Ram Lal Yadav, who was admitted to Tej Bahadur Sapru Hospital on May 4, 2021.
On May 7, the man’s oxygen level dropped dangerously to 68%, after which he was transferred to the hospital’s trauma center. That was the last the family heard from the hospital. The 82-year-old man has not been released and his body has not been released to the family.
Eventually, his son went to the high court alleging that the hospital caused his father’s disappearance.
The Supreme Court bench noted that the High Court had considered the habeas corpus petition filed by the man’s son on 16 occasions, but nothing was obtained from the police or officials of the State.
The Uttar Pradesh government’s lead attorney, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Garima Parshad, told the court that the state had taken all possible steps to locate the retired junior engineer, but did not had not succeeded.
She said police investigated, checked the nearest morgues to determine if he was dead and even ran their color TV ad to find him, but got no breakthrough.
The judges asked the state justice officer, “Did he vanish into thin air. How can he be missing? His oxygen level was 68, he was unable to walk, where will the body go?
The UP government justice officer said the state has suspended all doctors, fired nurses and taken disciplinary action against those responsible. She pointed out that the CCTV recordings had been sent for forensic examination, but half of them did not work. Following this, corrective measures were also taken, she added.
The bench asked the state to look at it from a family perspective.
“Imagine the desperation of the family. It’s been a year since he disappeared. Consider the agony of the family,” the bench said as it suspended the High Court order.
The eight civil servants who were ordered by the High Court to attend court on Friday were the Principal Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Chief Medical and Health, Prayagraj District Magistrate, Superintendent of Police, Chief Medical Officer of Prayagraj and Chief Medical Officer of TB Sapru Hospital.
The higher court told the state to file ₹50,000 within four weeks to pay the family’s legal costs and asked the government to see if reasonable compensation could be paid to the family.
But the state justice officer argued that although there is Covid compensation for those who have died, but the money from this provision could not be paid in this case as there is no no authentication that he died. The officer added, however, that the state would pay if the court ordered it. The case will now be heard after four weeks.