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21 Dec 2016

Warning to hospital hideouts - SC summons doctors for sheltering murder-accused MLC

R. Balaji, TT, New Delhi, Dec. 20: VIPs who are fortunate enough to develop chest pain just when arrest warrants are issued or bail is denied and obliging hospitals are coming under the microscope.
The Supreme Court has summoned two doctors and a former legislator to face contempt proceedings after it emerged that the public figure had spent 527 days in a private hospital in Gurgaon to evade arrest in a murder case.
The court found out several other startling nuggets of information:
♦ No laboratory test was conducted during the period of admission.
♦ On as many as 47 occasions during his admission, the former member of the legislative council (MLC) of Haryana was allowed to move out of the hospital without any medical professional justifying such movement.
♦ The MLC was not charged a "single paisa" for the hospitalisation.
The court has started contempt proceedings against the MLC, Balbir alias Bali, and two doctors, Munish Prabhakar and K.S. Sachdev, who are associated with the private hospital.
Balbir, Prabhakar and Sachdev have been asked to be present in court on January 2 to face the proceedings.
Balbir had been charged with kidnapping and murdering a businessman named Vishnu in Haryana's Rohtak on May 6, 2011. He had been granted bail by Punjab and Haryana High Court but the Supreme Court cancelled the relief on October 24, 2013, on a petition filed by a relative of Vishnu.
After that, a trial court issued non-bailable warrants for Balbir's arrest on November 20, 2013, February 5, 2014, March 15, 2014, April 16, 2014, and May 14, 2014, but he responded to none of them.
Vishnu's family had then filed a contempt petition against Balbir in the Supreme Court, which had ordered a CBI inquiry into the failure of the local police to arrest the accused.
In a report submitted in the apex court, the CBI mentioned how the police in Kalanaur (Rohtak) and the authorities of the hospital, called "Privat Hospital Dr Sachdev", connived with Balbir to help him evade arrest.
A bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justices R. Banumathi and U.U. Lalit said today: "It is clear that soon after the order dated 24.10.2013 (was) passed by this court, the respondent (Balbir) remained admitted in the hospital for a total of 527 days.
"Nothing has been placed on record, nor any medical condition or reasons have been adverted to why such admission was required in the first place. As found in the enquiry, no laboratory test was conducted during the period of admission from 25.02.2014 to 12.04.2014 and from 12.04.2014 to 01.05.2015."
The bench said: "This shows that the illness as projected was not serious at all and no intensive treatment as indoor patient was required or called for. This prolonged admission without any justifiable medical reason was essentially to defeat the direction issued by this court in its order dated 24.10.2013 and repeated non-bailable warrants issued by the trial court."
The Supreme Court noted that neither had Balbir surrendered nor had the police taken any step to arrest him.
"What is evident is total inaction on the part of the police, which helped the respondent in evading arrest and defeating the orders passed by this court as well as by the trial court. This callous attitude and conduct of the police call for strict administrative action and corrective penal measures," Justice Lalit said, writing the judgment.
The apex court said Balbir's move to get himself admitted to the hospital "when there was no medical reason to justify such admission" and his continued stay had exhibited "scant respect and regard for the orders and processes issued by the court".
"Despite issuance of (the) notice, the respondent neither filed any response nor tendered any apology," the court added.
Justice Lalit wrote in the order that after going through records and considering the CBI report, "we have no doubt that the respondent is guilty of having committed contempt of the direction issued by this court in its order dated 24.10.2013 and also in obstructing the administration".
"It is inconceivable that in normal circumstances, a man who has no ailment or a medical condition requiring emergency treatment would be kept as indoor patient without any laboratory test and without recovering a single paisa. Moreover, the record indicates that on as many as 47 occasions during his admission, the respondent was allowed to move out of the hospital without even an endorsement by any medical professional justifying such movement," the court said.
The court said the CBI report had revealed that "there used to be regular stream of visitors" during Balbir's stay in the hospital.
"These features clearly show that the respondent was in perfect condition of health and never really required admission in the hospital as an indoor patient. The role of the hospital was certainly not as innocent as is sought to be projected and the features detailed above clearly show that the hospital was party to the attempts on part of the respondent to defeat the order passed by this court".
"We also hold Dr. Munish Prabhakar and Dr. K.S. Sachdev guilty for having helped the respondent in his attempts and thereby obstructing administration of justice," the apex court said.

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