File photo: Supreme Court of India. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The Supreme Court Wednesday refused to grant interim bail to a former principal of a medical college and hospital in Uttar Pradesh where scores of children had died last year allegedly due to shortage of oxygen supply.
Dr Rajeev Kumar Mishra of Gorakhpur’s BRD medical college and hospital told the top court that he has been in jail for more than ten months and the children had died due to Japanese Encephalitis disease and not for shortage of oxygen.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and M M Shantanagoudar issued notice to Uttar Pradesh government on the plea of Mishra 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.
At the outset, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Mishra, said he was arrested on August 29, 2017 and has remained in jail for over ten months.
“Chargesheet has been filed in the case. The co-accused in the case including one doctor Kafeel Khan, who was the head of the Encephalitis ward, and the Oxygen gas supplier Manish Bhandari have already got bail. I should be granted at least interim bail till the petition is disposed of,” Rohatgi said.
When the bench asked him what was in the chargesheet filed against his client, the senior lawyer 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 a disease called Japanese encephalitis”.
He said at least interim bail should be granted till the petition is disposed of as over ten 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 order of Allahabad High Court 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 High Court that due to the alleged role of Misra, 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.