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Archives for : November2017

Justice Loya’s Death: 13 Questions That Remain Unanswered

The Caravan this week published a series of stories on the death of CBI special judge BH Loya in December 2014. Journalist Niranjan Takle has spoken extensively to the family of Justice Loya, who, before he died, was presiding over the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter killing case – in which a prime accused was BJP President Amit Shah. Shah was discharged by the judge who succeeded Justice Loya.

The revelations made by Justice Loya’s sisters, father and others form the basis of the stories. These, along with Takle’s own investigation, who spoke to officials in Nagpur who dealt with Loya’s body after he was found dead, raise several grave questions.

1. Why was Justice JT Utpat, Justice Loya’s predecessor in hearing the case, transferred from hearing the case despite a 2012 Supreme Court order specifying that the same judge should hear the matter from start to finish?

2. Was Bombay High Court Chief Justice Mohit Shah or the principal accused Amit Shah aware of any alleged inducements offered to Justice Loya to ensure a favourable judgment in the case?

3. Does Justice Mohit Shah deny the allegation by Justice Loya’s sister Anuradha Biyani, that he himself made an offer of Rs 100 crore in return for a favourable judgment?

[Takle had received no response from Justice Shah at the time of publication of the article mentioning this allegation]

4. Who made the arrangements for Justice Loya’s transportation to Dande Hospital on the night of his death, and why was this not in a vehicle from the government guest house or an ambulance?

5. Do Dande Hospital and/or Meditrina Hospital have records indicating what medication was provided to Justice Loya while in their care, and who was with him at the time?

6. What was the time of Justice Loya’s death according to the records of Meditrina Hospital and when do call records show this was intimated to Justice Loya’s family? Did the death occur at 6:15 am or before 5 am on 1 December 2014, or did it in fact occur before midnight?

[Justice Loya’s family says they received calls informing them of his death from 5 am in the morning onwards, but the post-mortem report specifies the time of death as 6:15 am, and other sources informed Takle that Justice Loya passed away before midnight]

The Quint has not conducted an independent corroboration of the claims made in the articles, and therefore does not affirm the truth of such claims. These include alleged discrepancies between the post-mortem report and the condition of Justice Loya’s body and clothes, as well as allegations that the then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court offered monetary inducements to Justice Loya to give a favourable judgment.

Nonetheless, the gravity of these claims (several of which are made on video here), which strike at the very heart of the judicial system if true, necessitates that they be investigated properly at the very least.

7. In what circumstances can a person die of “coronary artery insufficiency”? Is it possible for a person in good physical health without any cardiac history or other markers of this condition, experience “coronary artery insufficiency” and lose their life?

[Justice Loya’s sister, a doctor, claims that Justice Loya had no medical history consistent with the condition, and that this raised doubts as to whether this could be the cause of death]

8. Why was a post-mortem report ordered into Justice Loya’s death when no panchnama or FIR was filed terming it a suspicious death, and why was Justice Loya’s family not informed about the performance of a post-mortem? Alternatively, were any reasons for performance of post-mortem report recorded, where were these recorded and who recorded them?

9. Who signed the post-mortem report pages as “maiyatacha chulatbhau” (ie paternal cousin brother of the deceased) when no relation of Justice Loya was present in Nagpur? Does the countersignatory, the senior police inspector of Sadar police station, recollect who this was?

10. What was Ishwar Baheti’s relationship with the deceased and on what basis was he coordinating the funeral arrangements for Justice Loya, including contacting the family? Why was Justice Loya’s phone returned to the family by Mr Baheti rather than the police? Alternatively, did the police ask Mr Baheti to return the phone to Justice Loya’s family?

11. Does Justice Loya’s family still have the allegedly bloodstained shirt worn by Justice Loya at the time of death which the post-mortem report claims was dry?

12. Is it true that the CBI was only given 15 minutes to argue against the discharge of Amit Shah in subsequent hearings of the case before Justice Loya’s successor in hearing the case, Justice Gosavi, as against three days for the defence lawyers?

13. Who made the decision to announce MS Dhoni’s retirement from test cricket on 30 December 2014? Was this decided by the player or the BCCI and did any external source suggest the specific date?

[Justice Loya’s sister alleges that Justice Loya was informed that if he would deliver the judgment in the case before 30 December 2014, it would not be under focus because another news story would dominate the headlines and distract focus from the judgment]

(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough t

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Karnataka govt has given in to pressure from the profiteering private hospital lobby

State  presented a compromised KPME Amendments Bill 2017 in the Assembly

 

The aim of amendments to the KPME Act was to ensure protection of patient rights/citizens’ interests and bring in much needed transparency and accountability in private medical establishments. We welcome the government’s move to table the KPME amendments in the assembly. The Bill includes certain key pro-patients provisions but certain others have also been watered down to placate the private hospital owners. These changes to the Bill are proof of how the private hospital lobby was able to hold the government to ransom. We take strong objection to a closed door meeting between the private hospital lobby and the Chief Minister even as the Bill was being tabled. This is undemocratic and has excluded a large section of those who are at the mercy of the very same lobby who have privileged access to the CM.

 

Regulation of the private health sector is a necessary first step to check uncontrolled commercialisation of health care and ensure strengthening of the public health system. In this context several citizens’ groups had been demanding citizen-centric amendments to the KPME Act that included a state level authority to ensure effective implementation of the Act, protection of patient rights in PMEs, an independent grievance redressal forum, with full-time members to address violations of patient rights, cost regulation, banning cut and commission practices in PMEs as also the practice of giving targets to employee-doctors /staff in private medical establishments.

 

 

Citizens’ struggle and KPME amendments

 

In this context it is important to foreground the relentless efforts of various mass-based organisations and citizens’ groups who have led a relentless struggle against the powerful private hospital lobby. In fact it is due to these relentless efforts that the Bill continues to contain some crucial pro-patient provisions. Pro-citizen provisions such as patient rights charger, PME charter, cost capping and others were viciously opposed by the private hospital lobby even when citizens groups made representations in various committees including the Joint Select Committee of the House. As expected this has been a battle of the unequals which the private hospital lobby demonstrated through its misinformation campaign and the subsequent unethical protest.

 

 

 

Citizen centric provisions in the Bill

 

We welcome the fact that this amendment introduces for the first time an enforceable patients rights charter. Similarly, the creation of a charter for private medical establishments detailing its responsibilities has also been introduced. Several important rights like the right to care, right to prior and informed consent, right to dignity and privacy, right to information about the treatment and the right to a second opinion have been introduced. These two charters have to be prominently displayed at every hospital and a complaint can be filed with the District Registration and Grievance Redressal authority. This authority, entrusted with powers of a civil court shall be a platform for patients to take their grievances.  Similarly, the right of patients to receive emergency treatment without having to pay an advance amount and the right to have the body of deceased patients released before making the full payment are two important aspects which this amendment has introduced.

 

No State-level oversight Authority

 

But the Bill does not provide for a state level authority to ensure effective, stringent implementation of the Act. Therefore implementation of the amended Act will continue to be poor. The Appellate authority as envisaged by the Bill has two clinicians and there is no clarity what will be the nature of oversight by this body.

 

District level Registration and Grievance Redressal Committee

 

The Bill has combined the DRA and GRC into one body the District Registration and Grievance Redressal Authority headed by the DC with powers to look into both registration and grievances.  The composition of the DRGRA includes a representative of the very same IMA which has demonstrated complete lack of accountability, responsibility and concern for patients. The Bill also does not specify who the woman representative in the Authority will be. Therefore the composition of the DRGRA does not ensure a fair hearing for patients. Secondly the Bill does not define what a “frivolous” complaint is and does not lay out the due process to be followed by the Authority to determine what is “frivolous” and what is not. These elements along with Rs. 10000 fine for “frivolous” complaints will deter patients from filing complaints. Therefore the Bill while providing a redressal forum has created several deterrants where the odds are stacked against the patients.  Given the unequal nature of power between the PME and patient, the threat of a fine for ‘false’ complaints will not only deter patients from filing complaints but is also likely to be abused by the well connected private hospital lobby. Referring doctors to KMC will again make the patient vulnerable to an ‘expert’ driven forum. It is unclear if the patient will also have to approach KMC in this instance. If yes, the purpose of having a district redressal forum is diluted and will require patients and attenders from districts to travel to Bengaluru to testify before an ‘expert’ private doctor heavy committee – another deterrent. It is also of concern that the Amendments have been modified to state that patients cannot approach the courts directly and will be able to only after exhausting all mechanisms through the grievance redressal forum.

 

 

No Cost Regulation of PMEs

 

We also have been demanding price regulation in PMEs in order to put an end to the arbitrary and exorbitant cost of services as witnessed in Fortis hospital in the last few days. What happened in Fortis is a textbook case of irrational, unscientific, highly exploitative costing in private hospitals. The present Bill does not address this primary issue and therefore does not prevent exploitation of patients. The government has abdicated its role as a regulator. Failure to regulate costs of care in private hospitals only demonstrates that neither the ruling party nor the opposition have the integrity required to take such steps.

 

The government’s current move to fix the costs of procedures under various government schemes is an existing practice where government pays private hospitals empanelled under various schemes to provide a certain restricted number of services at pre-determined rates. In the event that such schemes are cancelled by the government this provision will become void.

 

No provisions to prevent malpractice in PMEs

 

Apart from stating that no private diagnostic facility will be set within a radius of 200 m of a government hospital, the Bill is silent about the rampant malpractices like cuts and commissions and criminal negligence in private diagnostic centres, clinics and hospitals.

 

The events of the past week have been an eye-opener to all citizens

 

Profiteering private hospital lobby and its direct threat to patients

 

The IMA’s deliberate misinformation campaign shifted focus from hospitals to doctors and raised non-existent issues such as jail term to create mob panic that prevented discussions of any genuine concerns. For instance there was a section of doctors working in private hospitals who wanted provisions protecting whistleblowers from within the hospitals. Similarly provisions banning cuts and commissions, concerns of small clinic and hospital owners were completely drowned out in the deliberate cacophony of lies and distortions.

 

The events of the past week have only further eroded the trust between doctors and patients, when in fact the Bill had the potential to reduce the trust deficit. We urge the doctors’ associations and their members to deeply reflect on their role in this entire episode. Why was an amendment aimed at ensuring accountability of establishments needlessly painted as one that attacked doctors? What does the future hold for patient-doctor relationship after this episode? What kinds of accountability mechanisms they plan to bring in within their organizations such as IMA, PHANA to ensure responsible, mature conduct of its office bearers? The IMA and PHANA, instead of being voluntary associations have used ‘draconian’ measures to ensure that all doctors participate in protests without any room for personal choice. Is this the same when it comes to performing procedures and tests with the interest of the PMEs being foregrounded over those of patients?

 

Opposition parties’ support for the private hospital lobby

 

These events also revealed how Leaders of the opposition parties made statements in support of private hospital owners but none in support of protection of patient rights. The BJP members who were in the Joint Select Committee of the House, issued a dissent note which mirrored the demands of the private hospital lobby. BJP leader Yediyurappa has even threatened to repeal the Bill if voted to power. The central government’s health care policies have opened the floodgates of corporatisation. Therefore the state BJP’s support of private hospitals is not surprising and sends out a dangerous message to citizens. The JD(S) too helped propel the misinformation campaign by harping on the non-existent jail term and speculating about one-size-fits-all charges for all establishments. Both the opposition parties failed to show any concern to patients rights and have exposed their affinity for the private health lobby.

 

Government needs to reverse its pro-private health care policies and reduce dependency on private health sector which it is not able to regulate

 

The private health sector has repeatedly demonstrated its profiteering nature and through last week’s protest has sent a clear message that it will stop at nothing to protect “business interests”. But the state government on its part has continued to pursue health care policies that push citizens to seek care in private sector thus increasing their dependency on the latter. The government must immediately demonstrate its commitment to strengthening the public health system by:

 

  • Tripling its health care budget in the coming financial year and investing in public health facilities at all levels.
  • Stop empanelling private /corporate hospitals under various government insurance schemes so that tax payers money is not siphoned off to the private sector
  • Roll back its policies that hand over government hospitals/health centres to private entities

 

Inclusiveness and Participation in law making

 

We urge the government to bring in greater inclusiveness and participation in law making. We had demanded that the government hold public consultations in every district with citizens during the KPME amendments process. This would have ensured a just and fair law and also ensured that there was little scope for misinformation. At least in the drafting of the rules for the act now, this must be followed.

 

Way forward

 

The KPME Bill has opened the discourse on health care issues in the public domain for the first time. We will take this critical discourse forward to the people of Karnataka and continue our struggle to strengthen the public health system, for demanding citizen-centric health care policies and legal instruments anchored in our Constitutional values of social justice, equality, transparency and democratic accountability. In the context of this Bill, we will continue to work with patients and their caregivers suffering violations in private/corporate hospitals to seek justice. We will fight for a healthcare system that is accessible to all.

 

Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali Alternative Law Forum

Slum Janadolana Karnataka Karnataka Janashakti

Swaraj Abhiyan Samaana Shikshanakkagi Janandolana

Manthan Law Mahila Munnade

Safai Karmachari Kavalu Samiti Karnataka Sex Workers’ Union

Swaraj Sanghatane Sangama

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Janandolanagala Maha Maitri

Lancha Mukta Karnataka Nirmana Vedike Garment and Textile Workers’ Union

Jana Sangram Parishad

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Indramal Bai’s suicide – an Institutional Murder

 

We, the undersigned, express shock and dismay at the mindset and functioning of the police and the state government in the case of Indramal Bai’s suicide. Distraught and with no way out from the police pressures, she was forced to take this extreme step. We believe that it is a clear case of institutional murder of Indramal Bai by M. P. Government.

Indramal Bai was a waste-picker from the Pardhi community. She lived in Gandhi Nagar basti in Bhopal (M.P.) with her two young children. Her husband was living separately for the past 10 years. She was forced to take her life due to continuous harassment for over a week by three policemen named Gajraj, Jadhav and Sandeep from the local Gandhi Nagar Police Station. These policemen were trying to extort money by threatening to register a criminal case of theft against her. They did not relent even after repeated pleas by Indramal of her innocence and her inability to give any money. On the fateful day (Friday, 17th November 2017), the corrupt policemen visited her house thrice. By the end of it, she was so desperate that she poured kerosene on herself. As she caught fire, the two went away saying that these Pardhis can do all the dramas of the world. Indramal’s relatives ran to save her but she already had over 60% burns when admitted to the Hamidia Hospital. She breathed her last in the intervening night of Sunday and Monday (20th November 2017 at 12:40 a.m.)

It has been reported in the media that Indramal Bai, in her dying declaration to the Magistrate, has said that she had accidentally caught fire when she was burning the scrap. We believe that this kind of testimony has been deliberately written to protect the police. The accused policemen were roaming around the hospital and were in the ward itself where Indramal was admitted. We have doubts on how the questions were asked and how the replies were documented. Her family members’ testimonies as well as her own video testimonies available clearly show that she was pushed to take the extreme step of trying to end her life. Moreover, the Investigation Officer made no effort to take Indramal Bai’s testimony again while she was alive.

On 20th Nov, a group of residents of the basti along with members of several progressive groups in the city protested in front of the Madhya Pradesh Police Head QuartersParallelly, an independent fact-finding team met the ADG, Crime against Women, Aruna Mohan Rao and DIG, Sudhir Lad to raise the issue of police apathy and non-registration of FIR, as well as the larger issue of police atrocities on vulnerable groups in the city. While they were assured that justice shall be served, no orders have yet been issued to register an FIR against the accused policemen. The three accused have also not been served suspension orders, and only two of them have been merely line-attached.

Subsequently, residents of the basti and several concerned people staged a non-violent dharna outside Gandhi Nagar police station. They demanded that an FIR must be registered against the three policemen whose illegal, inhuman and cruel act prima facie forced Indramal Bai to take the extreme step. The police officers said that they will decide the course of action once the police enquiry into the incident is completed. Thus, even the basic right to file an FIR was not heeded despite the fact that it was the third day of filing the complaint.

Registering an FIR is a constitutional right of every citizen. In the recent gruesome gang-rape case of the 19 year old girl, the Bhopal District Court has clearly ordered that the police station cannot refuse registering of FIR under any circumstances and no excuse can be tolerated in reference to non-registration of FIR. The Gandhi Nagar police’s excuse that they will register the FIR only after the investigation is completed is a violation of the Constitution.

Though people were sitting in a peaceful way and negotiating with the police functionaries present on the spot, when ASP Sameer Yadav reached the site, he started manhandling the activists and provoked the people. He pushed Alok Agrawal, State Convener for Aam Aadmi Party and pushing him on the ground, told the police to arrest him. As this unfolded, stone pelting started from both sides. Even while present sangathan activists and family members of the victim tried to calm the people, the police recklessly carried out a violent lathi-charge seriously injuring many people.  

The arrest of Alok Agarwal, while demanding for an FIR registration within the thana premises, is a completely illegal act. Refusal to give bail because of political pressure is an illegal interference of the government in legal matters of the court.

Madhya Pradesh government has adopted a silent stand on the institutional murder of Indramal Bai. The inaction of police functionaries on a constitutional demand of registering of an FIR shows the deplorable condition of the state we are living in today.

We are forced to say that the police response in the matter has been not only unlawful but gravely insensitive and cruel towards a community which has already been violated for decades.  We are also shocked and pained to see the callous attitude of the police towards crimes against women. Moreover to protect the illegal and deplorable actions of its own men, the police is resorting to defaming Indramal by spreading news in media of past cases against her. This situation will have to change.

We demand that the state government should –

1.      Register n FIR against the three accused police personnel and take strong, immediate and exemplary action in this incident,

2.      Take action against police officers involved in suppressing and delaying justice by not taking timely testimonies from Indramal Bai and her relatives.

3.      Initiate a high-level enquiry in the matter of the institutional murder of Indramal Bai

4.      Release Alok Agarwal immediately, without any conditions

5.      Ensure human rights and democratic rights of Pardhis and other denotified tribes in the state. The repeated violations of rights of these communities in the hands of the police need to be handled firmly and the government has to take steps beyond tokenism and ensure lawful conduct of its functionaries.

 

Aranya, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, Bindas Bol Group, Centre for Social Justice, Eka, Forum for Justice, Gharelu Kaamgar Mahila Adhikar Sangh, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Jan Pahal, Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Muskaan, National Federation for Indian Women, Samta, Shahri Mazdoor Sangathan, Shiksha Adhikar Manch, Bhopal, Vikalp Sanskritik Manch, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression, M.P. and many more

Contact – 9425917757 and 9407549240

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