Bengaluru: The three-member Committee of Karnataka State Legal Services Authority, appointed by the Karnataka High Court to probe the Chamarajanagar District Hospital tragedy, in its report submitted to the High Court has pointed out incidents of possible tampering with the records. A detailed probe alone can unearth the acts of omissions and commissions of the individuals for fixing the responsibility, the report said.
The Committee, headed by Justice A.N. Venugopala Gowda and Justice K.N. Keshavanarayana, retired Judges, and S.T. Ramesh, retired DGP&IGP pointed out manipulation by tampering of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) register maintained from Apr. 29, 2021 and two oxygen consumption registers maintained by the bio-medical engineer.
Following this serious observation, a Special Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar has directed the State Chief Secretary to keep the records seized in his custody. The Bench has taken up a day-to-day hearing of the case and the Committee’s findings.
Manipulation by tampering
One of the incidents of tampering was noticed by the Committee during the examination of the LMO register. “The examination of LMO register maintained from 29.4.2021 and two oxygen consumption registers maintained by the Bio-Medical Engineer, prima facie reveals that there has been manipulation by tampering of the registers. In the LMO register page No. 3 and 4 are missing,” the report said.
The Committee report also observed discrepancies in the preparation of the case sheets of the deceased. “The entries in the case sheets, 28 made by one particular doctor and one case sheet by another doctor, appeared to have been made in one go,” the report said.
Factual details column left blank
Some factual details were not entered in the case sheets with reference to even the time and date of death, while a number of printed forms were blank, without the particulars of the patient but contained only the signature of the Medical Officer, the report added.
The liquid oxygen tank with a capacity of 6 Kilo Litres was installed at the hospital premises some time ago but the first filling of LMO had taken place only on Apr. 29, 2021. On May 1, this LMO tank was filled for the second time after being commissioned on Apr. 29, but was exhausted in less than 30 hours. Though 40 jumbo cylinders were made available by District Hospital, Mysuru, the cylinders reached Chamarajanagar only at 6 am on May 3, the report observed.
The Committee has also recommended that the hard discs of CCTVs/DVR be retained in the safe custody of the State Chief Secretary. The Bench clarified that the One-Man Commission of inquiry headed by Retired Judge Justice B.A. Patil, constituted by the State Government, can get access to the documents.
Compensation to the families
The Special Bench sought a response from the State Government on paying compensation to the families of those who died in the tragedy. The Bench said the State Government was liable to compensate the families, and it has to answer two issues raised by the report.
First, how will the State Government compensate families that have lost their dear ones due to its failure and second aspect of the report is on the Government taking a decision on fixing responsibility on individual officers for their lapses, the Court asked Advocate-General Prabhuling K. Navadagi and Additional Advocate General Subramanya.
Amicus curiae Vikram Huilgol drew the attention of the Court to Supreme Court judgments on payment of compensation in such cases. The Bench noted that the Apex Court has held that the writ court can grant prayer for compensation under Article 226 of the Constitution.
The Court also said that the first priority is to pay at least ad hoc compensation to the families of victims. The Bench said it will consider issuing direction on payment of compensation if the Government is unable take a stand on paying compensation as the Committee has clearly pointed out that patients had died due to lack of supply of oxygen besides elaborating on the causes for lack of oxygen supply.