13 women lost their lives in November 2014 after undergoing sterilization surgery performed in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh. A criminal case was lodged against the surgeon Dr. R.K. Gupta and the government set up a one-person judicial enquiry commission headed by Js Anita Jha. The Enquiry report is out and has indicted the surgeon as well as those responsible for organizing the camp.
However, the High Court in Chhattisgarh has disposed of the case – on the procedural grounds that Dr. Gupta was acting as part of his official duty and no previous sanction was obtained from the state government while initiating prosecution against him.
Women´s groups have drafted an open letter to the chief minister of Chhattisgarh to re-instate the case against Dr. Gupta.
Here is the full text of the letter.
Open Letter to CG Chief Minister
We the undersigned organizations working across the country on health and women’s rights are shocked and dismayed that the case against surgeon Dr. RK Gupta has been dismissed by the Hon’ble High Court on the grounds that “the alleged act committed by the petitioner was while acting in discharge of his official duty and admittedly no previous sanction was obtained before initiating prosecution case against him”.
As the Anita Jha Judicial Enquiry Commission report has clearly pointed out that “It is evident from the facts that in the camps organized on 8.11.2014 and 10.11.2014 there was a breach in the important necessities hence the standard operating procedure were not followed. As a result of which the symptoms of infections were found in post operative female beneficiaries”. It further states that “On the background of deliberation of investigation point number 1 to 3, investigation committee has found following persons Guilty/responsible, functionary, during 08 and 10 November, 2014:- 4.1 For not following standard procedures and for medical negligence by immediate functionary Block Medical Officer, Takhatpur…………….and surgeon who conducted surgery in tubectomy camp at Sakri and Gaurella.( Surgeries were completed by the same surgeon in the both camps)”.
It is a pity that the Hon. High Court has dismissed the case purely on technical grounds, thereby denying justice to the bereaved families of those 13 young women who died in Bilaspur district, the many more women who suffered serious illness in hospitals and the many small children deprived of their mothers’ care. However, the Hon’ble Court in its judgement has stated that “the respondents State shall be free to take previous sanction of the State Govt. in this regard if it still desires to prosecute the petitioner and in the event of obtaining sanction, they would be at liberty to further prosecute the petitioner. It is made clear that this Court has not given any opinion on the merits of the case as the prosecution case was not sustainable on the preliminary objection itself and the merits of the case is still left open to be considered and adjudicated upon at a subsequent appropriate stage if the situation so arises”….
We would thus request that your government put the wheels of justice back on track, and immediately give permission for prosecution of surgeon Dr. RK Gupta, to ensure that this case becomes a deterrent example for anyone who tries to subvert the Sterilization Guidelines.
We are also very disappointed to note that the Chhattisgarh government has greatly reduced provision of sterilization services as a public health service in government facilities, forcing poor women to take recourse to the private sector at extremely high cost and inconvenience.
We would urge you to please reconsider this decision and make these services available in the public hospitals both for men and women, while ensuring high quality and informed choice for those who opt for this contraceptive method.
We look forward to your active cooperation and support on these two issues,.