Did dean's goof-up lead to Supreme Court relief for Tadvi accused?

Updated: 15 October, 2020 07:16 IST | Anurag Kamble, Faizan Khan | Mumbai

Legal officers and family claim Nair hospital deans failure to mention in suspension order that the three doctors were found guilty of ragging is why they can now resume studies

Dr Payal Tadvi
Dr Payal Tadvi

After the Supreme Court recently allowed the three accused suspended doctors in Dr Payal Tadvi's suicide case to resume their studies at Nair hospital, Dr Tadvi's family has said that this is a result of the medical college's dean failing to suspend them on the basis of the anti-ragging committee's report that held them guilty. Dr Tadvi's husband, Salman, also questioned if the state failed to submit the anti-ragging report before the apex court, a claim that the state's law department has refuted.

An officer from Maharashtra's law department told mid-day that the anti-ragging report is on record and was submitted before the Supreme Court (SC). The SC's decision is based only on the suspension order passed by the dean of BYL Nair Hospital who did not mention the anti-ragging committee's report in the order.

"The order of the apex court could have been different but the dean of the hospital, who passed the suspension order at that time, did not mention the anti-ragging committee's report. In fact, the doctors were suspended even before the report came. The suspension was based on the FIR and over them not cooperating with the police. The anti-ragging committee's report was presented before the court, it is on record and was mentioned in the order as well," a law department officer said.

The three accused (from left) Bhakti Mehare, Hema Ahuja and Ankita Khandelwal
The three accused (from left) Bhakti Mehare, Hema Ahuja and Ankita Khandelwal

"We have not received any instructions from the government regarding a review petition," the officer added.

Defence's submission

Advocate Sidharth Luthra, who represented the accused, had submitted in the court that the outward number for the Order of Suspension is NDN/172 and that of the report is NDN/183, indicating that the suspension was issued before the report came; also, while both communications have been signed by the dean of Topiwala National Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital College, the suspension did not mention the report.

Payal Tadvi's mother, Abeda
Payal Tadvi's mother, Abeda

The SC, in its order, said, "We are not concerned with any eventuality arising or occurring by virtue of Sections 4 (ragging) and 5 (dismissal of student) of (Maharashtra Prohibition Of Ragging) 1999 Act. To take appropriate action under Section 6(1) of 1999 Act, the concerned head of the educational institution must prima facie be satisfied that the allegations against the student have been found to be true, whereafter, an order of suspension can be passed."

The order continued, "As stated here in above, the Order of Suspension does not even record any such finding or prima facie view… thus... the Order of Suspension is not referable to Section 6(1) of 1999 Act."

The accused doctors at the sessions court last year. File pic
The accused doctors at the sessions court last year. File pic

The SC also noted that the report and the suspension order were both issued on July 27, 2019.

The three accused – Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal – had moved the Supreme Court in March. They claimed that being doctors, they are 'corona-warriors' and should be allowed to pursue their education to serve the nation.

Salman and Payal Tadvi. File pic
Salman and Payal Tadvi. File pic

The anti-ragging committee's report to the Maharashtra University of Health Science (MUHS) had categorically said that it is a clear cut case of ragging and the accused doctors' actions led to Dr. Tadvi's suicide. It also found the hospital's mechanism to prevent ragging ineffective. The Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1999 provides for imprisonment of two years for convicted raggers and dismissal from their educational institution and a ban from other institutions for five years.

'Shielding the accused'

Dr Salman Tadvi told mid-day, "This is utter negligence and a deliberate attempt to shield the accused. Was the anti-ragging committee's report not attached? There should be action against those responsible."

Payal's mother, Abeda (centre) said that people who came to help earlier have forgotten them. File pic
Payal's mother, Abeda (centre) said that people who came to help earlier have forgotten them. File pic

Disappointed by the approach of the Maharashtra government and especially Nair hospital administration, Dr. Salman urged correctional measures. "We have no objection to the SC order as it is based on the submission. I want to question the Nair hospital's administration — why didn't they suspend the accused students under the Maharashtra Prohibition Of Ragging Act 1999?," he said.

Dr Salman added, "The accused are seniors in their department and some of the witnesses are juniors and college authorities. What if they influence them? Is this how Nair hospital is going to treat the accused who tortured a junior to death?"

Dr Salman demanded, "Nair hospital must suspend the three accused on the basis of the anti-ragging committee's report and the state government must file a review petition and stay the accused's education. Otherwise we will approach the court."

Dr. Tadvi, a postgraduate student of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Nair hospital had committed suicuide by hanging herself on May 22, 2019 in her room at the college hostel. Police had booked her three seniors under the atrocities act.

'People forgot about Payal'

Dr Tadvi's mother, Abeda, told mid-day, "Since May 22, 2019 we have been fighting for justice, but it looks like it is limited to rich people. We have been waiting for the accused who pushed my daughter to suicide, to be penalised," Abeda said. "I attended each hearing before the lockdown; I used to travel 600 km for it. It's been a year and a half, yet justice has not been done," she said.

Expressing her displeasure over the accused being allowed to continue their studies, Abeda, a cancer suvivor, said, "The accused getting to pursue their studies is a huge injustice and disturbing for us. How is this justice? Do Payal's college and state not care for her?"

She also added that many had stepped forward to help them but they are not around anymore. "My family and Payal's husband are strong. There is so much hue and cry over the death of a celebrity, but what about Payal's death," Abeda added.

Oct 8
Day the SC ordered that the accused doctors be allowed to resume studies

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First Published: 15 October, 2020 05:27 IST

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