June 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Where convicts come and go
Patiala, June 22
Sample this — Deputy Superintendent of Police Jaspal Singh, who had been sentenced in 2001 in four different cases of police atrocity for seven years, was able to get emergency medical parole of 15 days each, four times at a stretch, with a short gap in between. Jaspal availed himself of his first medical parole from December 13, 2001 to December 28, 2001. His second parole was from December 28, 2001 to January 12, 2002, and third from January 12, 2002 to January 27, 2002. On the last day of his third parole, Jaspal complained of chest pain and was admitted to the Civil Hospital, Fatehgarh Sahib, where he stayed till March 3, 2002. The next day, he proceeded again on emergency medical parole for another 15 days. Following this, he availed himself of 42 days’ leave for his agricultural work.
Each time, Jaspal was able to get emergency medical leave by citing that his wife had incurred a head injury, with one of the leave certificates saying the injury had occurred when she fell off a flight of stairs. Each of the leave certificates had been signed by the Medical Officer of the Government Rajindra Hospital. There was no Medical Officer in the hospital in the Department of Surgery who could have given the certificate.
It was not only Jaspal who had taken advantage of the mysterious Medical Officer of the hospital who had signed their certificates, which had been accepted by the local court while authorising them emergency leave. Other high-profile prisoners, including Ladwinder Singh, Agyapal Singh and Assistant Sub-Inspector Krishan Kumar, all convicts along with ADGP D.S. Bhullar in the murder case of an NRI businessman, had also availed themselves of emergency medical parole through certificates from the Medical Officer and even the Registrar, Department of Medicine. There was no Registrar in the Department of Medicine either.
This was not all. Though scores of convicts had secured emergency medical leave in this manner, there was no record of their near and dear ones having been ever admitted to the Government Rajindra Hospital. Investigations by The Tribune revealed that medical parole had been secured by writing false central registry (CR) numbers. Perusal of the admission files from the CR office revealed names of patients other than those claimed to have been admitted according to the medical parole requests. Care had been taken to use CR numbers being used in the hospital on the day the relatives of the convicts had been shown to be admitted to the hospital.
All this seemed to have been done in an organised manner, with the Central Jail authorities encouraging the fraud. According to documents in the possession of The Tribune, the Central Jail Superintendent had written a letter to the “Medical Officer” of the hospital, asking him to inform about the health of Jaspal’s wife, who had been admitted there, though such a request could not be made under the rules. No gazetted officer had ever been sent to verify the medical certificates submitted on behalf of the convicts, with Welfare Officers of the jail routinely filing reports stating that all patients seen by them were serious.
The Medical Superintendent of the hospital Dr A.S. Sekhon, when shown the documents pertaining to the case, said there was no Medical Officer in the six surgery units of the hospital. He said any Medical Officer of the hospital was not supposed to handle patients, saying an emergency medical parole certificate could be issued only by the CR office, duly countersigned by the Medical Superintendent or the Deputy Medical Superintendent. When shown the certificates issued in the name of the hospital, he said they appeared to be forged and should be handed over to the police for investigation. Speaking about the medical certificates signed by the “Registrar” of the Department of Medicine, he said there was no such post in any department. He said a proper file should have been made in all cases, with the bed-head ticket, which was a legal document, being quoted.
Convicts lodged in the Central Jail here had not only availed themselves of largesse from this hospital. Two documents showed that the Medical Officer of the Government Ayurvedic Dispensary in the PSEB headquarters had also issued certificates to the convicts. In case of Darshan Singh, a convict under the NDPS Act, the ayurvedic doctor had issued a medical certificate, saying the convict’s mother was under depression because of separation from her son. In another medical certificate issued by the same doctor, convict Resham Singh’s wife was quoted to be suffering from anxiety neurosis due to separation from her husband. Both diagnoses were not medically tenable as the doctor was not a psychologist and there was no guarantee that the patient would not suffer from further depression during the tenure of imprisonment of her son or husband.
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