Thursday, November 30, 2023

Kerala HC grants anticipatory bail to cop accused of manhandling doctor over delay in treating his mother

The crime was registered on the basis of the First Information Statement given by Dr Rahul Mathew, who is working as Junior Consultant (Surgery) in the Government Hospital, Mavelikkara. Going by the statement, he had been on night duty on the night of May 13, 2021.

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The Kerala High Court on Friday granted anticipatory bail to a police officer who allegedly manhandled a doctor over an alleging delay in treating his mother.

A single-judge bench of Justice K. Haripal passed this order while hearing a bail application filed by Abhilash R. Chandran and others. In this case, the FIR was registered on May 14, 2021 alleging offence punishable under Sections 341, 294(b), 323, 332 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3 and 4 of the Kerala Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2012.

The crime was registered on the basis of the First Information Statement given by Dr Rahul Mathew, who is working as Junior Consultant (Surgery) in the Government Hospital, Mavelikkara. Going by the statement, he had been on night duty on the night of May 13, 2021.

The Petition said at 7.30 am on May 14, 2021; at about 4.15 am, a woman by name Laly was taken to the casualty for treatment. As it was reported that she was tested Covid positive undergoing quarantine, was directed to be taken to Triage (an earmarked portion of the hospital attending to Covid positive patients). He had rushed to the place; he was not even wearing the PPE kit; taking into consideration the urgency of the matter, he attended to the patient. But by then, she had died. Alleging that there was a delay in attending to her, the son of the patient abused him and tried to manhandle him. He told him to make the complaint, if any, before the Superintendent.

He also took steps to release the body and also informed the police. Later at about 7.30 am, two persons entered his room, abused him, caught hold of his neck and slapped him. The patient had died due to Covid complications.

Even though her oxygen level was low, she was not taken to hospital on time. There was absolutely no negligence on his part or staff members of the hospital. If a person is tested Covid positive such a patient can be taken to the hospital only after intimating the health workers; himself and other members of the staff were not aware of the health complications of the deceased, that’s when he saw that the patient had died.

In other words, the prosecution case is that after a Covid positive patient was taken to the hospital in the wee hours of May 14, 2021, alleging that there was negligence on the part of the defacto complainant and other staff of the hospital, petitioners were abusing and manhandling the defacto complainant.

Advocate P. Vijaya Bhanu appearing on behalf of the applicant submitted that he is a Civil Police Officer on probation in Kerala Police, working on deputation in Kochi Metro. According to the counsel, even though negligence on the part of the de facto complainant and hospital staff was patent, the de facto complainant was abusing the 1st Petitioner (Abhilash R. Chandran) and his relatives and there followed a tussle.

Counsel for the 2nd respondent (Dr Rahul Mathew) seriously opposed the application. According to him, the mother of the 1st Petitioner was in fact brought dead to the hospital and even at the risk of his personal safety, the de facto complainant was attending to her. Still he suffered crushing injury on his throat and was beaten on his face; the 1st petitioner though a police constable is not prepared to abide the law.

The Public Prosecutor had opposed the application, stating that “medical officers, in spite of their diligent and devoted discharge of duty during the period of pandemic are at the receiving end. These kinds of incidents are on the rise and therefore, applicants do not deserve any sympathetic consideration.”

From the averments in the petition, it is evident that at least the the petitioner was part of a tussle occurred in the room of medical officer. The Court can understand that the mother of the petitioner had died after becoming Covid positive.

The doctor claims to have rushed to the place, not even wearing a PPE kit considering the urgency of the matter. But by the time he attended the patient, she was no more. The doctor stated in his statement that the patient had died due to Covid complications, and due to delay in bringing her to the hospital despite her oxygen level being low.

“We cannot forget the sacrifices and devotion to duty exhibited by the medical officers and health staff especially during the trying times when the pandemic condition was at its peak. The worsening situation could be bridled in our State only because of the devoted discharge of duties in a most religious manner by medical staff. As rightly pointed out by Public Prosecutor, laymen who do not understand the technicalities of the situation are might have carried away on misinformation and misconceptions,” the Court said.

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“After considering rival contentions and the materials on record, I am not convinced that this is a fit case requiring custodial interrogation. Prima facie, it does not seem that anything requires to be elicited by their custodial interrogation. As already noticed, the petitioners though under suspension is a member of the police force. The prosecution has no contention that he may flee from justice and will not make himself available for investigation and trial, if found necessary,” the Court observed.

“Therefore, in the event of arrest, the petitioners shall be released on bail on condition that they shall execute bond for Rs 50,000 each with two solvent sureties each for the like sum to the satisfaction of the Investigating Officer; they shall co-operate with the investigation and shall make themselves available as and when necessary; they shall not involve themselves in such crime during the period of bail,” the Court ordered.

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