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Tested fit, operated on, sacked by army

He was certified fit enough to be a jawan in the Indian Army in January 2002. He was declared ‘unfit’ due to a problem in the left ear within six weeks of joining duty. He was operated upon “without consent” and, subsequently, struck off the army rolls, on medical grounds.

The courtroom is now his battleground, as he embarks on a lone fight for justice against a section of the army.

Calcutta High Court on Monday admitted a petition by expelled jawan Abhijit Mitra, alleging medical negligence by doctors at Command Hospital, in New Delhi.

The resident of Budge Budge sought a court order directing the army to reinstate him in service and also pay him a compensation of Rs 10 lakh. The court directed the Union of India to file an affidavit and fixed a hearing after four weeks.

Mitra said he had been selected for the post of jawan by the army on January 15, 2002, after a thorough medical check-up. After just 38 days of his joining service, the authorities found that he was hard of hearing in his left ear. The petitioner then had to face a medical board, comprising army doctors, who confirmed the complaint and suggested that he be hospitalised.

“The authorities got me admitted to Command Hospital and my left ear was operated upon without my consent. Prior to the operation, I could hear clearly,” claimed the petitioner, adding that after the operation, the doctors had told him that his ailment was “not curable”. He was then discharged from the army.

Mitra submitted several appeals “to the appropriate fora”, to no avail. In his petition, he demanded to be told why he had been put through a second medical test even after clearing the first one; why his consent had not been sought for the ear operation; why action was not taken by the army against the doctors responsible for gross negligence; and why the Army Act had not been not followed by the authorities during the procedure.

Counsel for the petitioner Subrata Mukherjee claimed Mitra was deliberately dropped so a candidate backed by one of his superiors, who was next in line, could get in.

“There are four cases pending before Calcutta High Court where defence personnel of various ranks have been sacked on medical grounds. The treatment has even been meted out to a wing commander who had served in the Kargil war,” claimed Mukherjee.

The former jawan’s counsel, during his submission, alleged that it had become “routine procedure” for both the Indian Army and the Air Force to level allegations on medical grounds “against a particular linguistic community”.

Mukherjee said his client, a victim of medical negligence, had been operated upon “without a valid reason”. So, he has demanded proper action against the doctors, besides pleading for a reinstatement in the army and a compensation of Rs 10 lakh.

Justice Arun Mitra directed the “Union of India and the defence secretary” to file an “affidavit-in-opposition” within two weeks in response to Mitra’s petition.

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