The U.P. Special Task Force on Tuesday arrested the former principal of a government-run medical college in Gorakhpur and his wife in connection with the deaths of 60 children at its hospital.
These are the first arrests in the case that had shaken the country.
“Dr. Rajiv Mishra and his wife, Dr. Purnima Shukla, who are named in an FIR lodged by the UP government, were arrested from Kanpur. They are being taken to Gorakphur,” IG, Public Grievances, Vijay Singh Meena said here.
Mishra was suspended as principal of BRD Medical College on August 12 after the deaths, which occurred over a span of five days, were reported. He resigned the same day.
According to SSP, Gorakhpur, Anirudh Sidhartha Pankaj, a police team last night also went to the home of Dr Kafeel Khan, the former nodal officer of the acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) ward in the hospital who was removed after the deaths, to quiz him but he was not there.
Mishra and his wife, as well as Khan, were among those named in the FIR lodged by the state government following a report by the state Chief Secretary Rajive Kumar, who headed a probe that went into the causes behind the child deaths.
An STF official said Mishra and his wife were being quizzed but declined to share further details.
The couple were picked up from Kanpur where they had reportedly gone to consult a lawyer.
“The STF team then left for Gorakhpur to carry out further interrogation there,” Pankaj told PTI in Gorakhpur.
The FIR was lodged in the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow against nine persons, including Mishra, in connection with the deaths of children at the hospital attached to the college due to alleged lack of oxygen supply. The case was transferred to Gorakhpur.
The proprietors of M/s Pushpa Sales, the company responsible for the supply of liquid oxygen, have also been named in the FIR.
On Dr Kafeel Khan, the SSP said, “Police reached his residence for questioning. However, he was not there. His family members have been told to support the police, so that they do not face any legal action during investigations.”
Recommendations were made by the probe team to initiate criminal action against Dr Khan for allegedly concealing facts and filing false affidavit and working against the rules of the Indian Medical Council.
However, a group of doctors at AIMS-Delhi had come out in his support, alleging that he was being made a scapegoat by the authorities.
Cases were registered under various sections of the IPC, Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Medical Council Act against Dr Rajiv Mishra, Dr Purnima Shukla, Dr Kafeel Khan, Dr Satish, Chief Pharmacist Gajanan Jaiswal, Accountant Sudhir Pandey, Assistant Clerk, Uday Pratap Sharma of Pushpa Sales and Manish Bhandari.
The IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.
The official report by the chief secretary, however, denied lack of oxygen as the cause of death.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had formed the committee on August 12, a day after the deaths of children were reported at the hospital. The state government had also shunted out additional chief secretary medical education Anita Bhatnagar Jain.
The issue had acquired a political hue with the BJP government drawing flak from the opposition over the deaths in Gorakhpur, which Adityanath had represented five times in the Lok Sabha.