Journalist Mudasir Ali’s death: Court sends notice to govt on plea challenging inquiry

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The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on Friday directed the government to file objections after the family of prominent journalist Mudasir Ali challenged the findings of an expert committee on his death. 

A bench of Justice Mohammad Akram Chowdhary issued notice to the government on Friday through Commissioner Secretary Health and Medical Education Department, Director Health Services Kashmir, Deputy DHSK and Expert Committee through its Head, Dr. Abdul Rashid Najjar.  

Mudasir, a resident of Chrar-i-sharief who was associated with Greater Kashmir and freelanced for several national and international publications died during the early night hours of 20 November 2020 at Charar-e-Sharief sub-district hospital (SDH) in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district after he developed chest pain. 

Jahangir Ali, brother of Mudasir Ali in the petition filed at the court has demanded quashing of the enquiry report submitted by the designated committee on 22 December 2020.

Salih Peerzada, counsel of Mudasir’s family, told The Kashmir Walla that “the government has been directed to file objections into the case within four weeks”.

The family of the deceased journalist has accused that Mudasir died due to negligence and inadequacy of medical support at the hospital. 

Death of Mudasir amid claims of medical negligence created an uproar as a journalist fraternity across the country sought an independent probe into what led to his death. 

Following the demand, an expert committee was set up immediately to inquire into the allegations of medical negligence. The inquiry report of the committee was made public in January last year. 

According to the report, the patient (Mudasir) did not arrive at the hospital in time and his condition had already deteriorated when arrived. It said that the patient had arrived at the hospital more than three hours after the onset of symptoms. “As per evidence recorded, the golden hour seems to have been lost at home itself much before the arrival in hospital,” the report said.

The family of the Mudasir termed the inquiry report as hogwash and an attempt to save the hospital administration “involved in the crime”.

Jehangir said, “the inquiry report was an attempt to whitewash the crimes of the Health Department, the SDH Chrari Sharief, and the other staff”. 

“Instead of coming out with facts, the committee has given a clean chit to the people involved in causing death to my brother,” he told The Kashmir Walla.

Turning down the claim of enquiry report suggesting “the patient (Mudasir Ali) had arrived at the hospital more than three hours after the onset of symptoms,” Jahangir had said, “Mudasir Ali was immediately rushed to hospital after he developed pain in the chest”.

Jahangir in November last year filed a petition through his counsel Salih Peerzada in the High court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh challenging the expert committee report. The plea was heard on Friday.

The family has simultaneously approached the National Medical Commission, an ethical body setup by the Government of India to look into cases of medical negligence.

The petition filed by Jahangir Ali said that he (petitioner) is aggrieved of the enquiry report submitted by the enquiry committee on 22 December 2020 and seeks quashing of the same before the Court on the following grounds.

The petition reads that committee was entrusted with the responsibility of enquiring into the allegations of medical negligence committed by the on duty doctor and the medical staff at the hospital, however, the committee in the final report although has recommended attachment of the “delinquent doctor” and well as the other staff to directorate of Health Services, but has remained silent on the charge of medical negligence. 

The petition further said, “the purpose of constitution of the committee was only to enquire if the on duty doctor along with the medical staff was negligent in the death of petitioner’s brother. The committee has derelicted in its duty of such enquiry, as it on one hand has directed attachment of the delinquents while on the other hand has deliberately omitted the concluding findings on medical negligence. 

While referring to the Supreme Court’s three-Bench judgement titled Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab reported in (2005) 6 SCC 1, the petition reads, “impugned committee report being devoid of the findings and contrary to the purpose of its creation is illegal and liable to be quashed”.  

The petitioner has sought directions to conduct fresh enquiry in the matter in view of the guidelines laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Jacob Mathew v. State of Punjab reported in (2005) 6 SCC 1.

He has further prayed that the respondents “be directed to give a clear finding with respect to the fact whether the conduct of the doctor, administrative staff and the ambulance team amounted to Medical negligence in the given facts and circumstances of the case”.

“The Hon’ble Court may further be pleased to issue such other writ, direction or order in favour of the petitioners and against the respondents as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and appropriate in the facts and circumstances of the case,” the petition further prays.

Alleged Negligence 

While giving brief about the “facts” of negligence in the petition, that led to Mudasir’s death the petitioner has said that along with other family members took the deceased (Mudasir Ali) to the casualty of Sub-District Hospital, Chrar-i-Sharief on 20 December 2020 at around 3 am, after (Mudasir) complained of breathlessness and chest pain. “On arrival at the hospital the deceased was not provided with a wheelchair or a stretcher and the attendants were instructed to shift him to the ward on foot into another building using the stairs”. 

In the petition it has also been mentioned that the attending doctor was “asleep in the night room and the hospital was understaffed” and the deceased had to be therefore carried by the attendants including the petitioner. 

“While on the way into another building the deceased collapsed and stopped breathing. After collapsing, the doctor asked for a life saving injection to be administered, from the staff, which also was not readily available. By the time the life saving drugs and other necessary tests were carried the deceased had completely stopped breathing and was unconscious. The doctor present then inefficiently resorted to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), but to no avail,” the petition reads.

As per the petition the petitioner (Jahangir Ali) and the other accompanying attendants were then instructed to shift the deceased to SMHS hospital Srinagar in a Critical Care Ambulance, which is around 30 km from the said sub district hospital. The patient was not kept on oxygen supply in the transit to SMHS hospital and resultantly the patient died en route and was declared brought-dead by the authorities at the SMHS hospital.  

“It is clearly discernible from the facts aforementioned that the doctors and the administrative staff at the hospital delayed the treatment to be provided to the deceased which ultimately aggravated the condition of the deceased which further deteriorated due to the fact that the patient was not kept on oxygen supply in the ambulance,” the petition reads.  

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