New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to grant interim bail to a former principal of BRD medical college and hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur where scores of children had died last year, allegedly due to shortage of oxygen supply.
Dr Rajeev Kumar Mishra told the top court that he has been in jail for more than 10 months and the children had died due to Japanese Encephalitis and not for shortage of oxygen.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and MM Shantanagoudar issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on Mishra’s plea and listed the matter for June 6.
More than 60 children, mostly infants, had died at the government-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur within a week in August 2017. There were allegations that the deaths occurred due to disruption in oxygen supply over unpaid bills to the vendor.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Mishra, said he was arrested on August 29, 2017, and has remained in jail for over 10 months.
“Chargesheet has been filed in the case. The co-accused in the case, including Dr Kafeel Khan, who was the head of the encephalitis ward, and oxygen supplier Manish Bhandari, have already got bail. Mishra should be granted at least interim bail till the petition is disposed of,” Rohatgi said.
When the bench asked him what charges were filed against his client, Rohatgi said it has been alleged that Mishra had not cleared the bills for supply of oxygen, due to which the gas supply to the hospital was cut.
To this, the bench said, “Then what do you expect, that you will not clear the bills and the vendor will keep supplying the gas”.
Rohatgi said, “Oxygen gas was not the issue, as the children had died due to Japanese Encephalitis.”
He said at least interim bail should be granted till the petition is disposed of as over 10 months have gone by. The bench, however, refused the plea and sought response from the state government.
Mishra had approached the apex court challenging the Allahabad high court’s order dated April 30, by which it had denied bail to him. He has been booked for criminal negligence and offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The state government had told the HC that due to Mishra’s alleged role, the oxygen supply got halted in the hospital as he had stopped payments to the supplier to allegedly force the company to pay him kickbacks.
On April 9, the top court had granted bail to the proprietor of a firm which supplied oxygen to the hospital saying he had spent seven months in jail for an offence which entailed maximum punishment of three years imprisonment.