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Year on, the father bleeds...

A packed courtroom, a grieving father recounting how he had lost his only son a year ago to a hospital and five doctors in the dock trying to prove their innocence. The Rajnis Patel death case finally got underway at Alipore court on Thursday.

A year after budding cricketer Rajnis Patel, 17, died at SSKM Hospital after five botched surgeries, the first day of the trial found the focus firmly on a hapless Manoj Patel.

By the time the trial started, amidst a mild lathicharge to keep a curious crowd at bay, Rajnis’ mother Munni Devi was in tears. “I will stay out of the courtroom, as I don’t want to remind myself of all those tragic details of what happened to my son,” she said.

But the father, in greenish striped shirt and light ash trousers, made his resolute way into the courtroom, requesting onlookers to let him through.

Once inside, Manoj Patel fixed his gaze on the five doctors — orthopaedic surgeon D.K. Majumdar and junior doctors Souvik Bardhan, Sandip Manna, Jayanta Mondol and Nirmalya Basu — he has accused of medical negligence and held responsible for the death of his son.

In the chair was sub-divisional judicial magistrate (SDJM) Manjit Singh, who asked public prosecutor Naba Kumar Ghosh to make the opening remarks.

Ghosh explained briefly how the police had found evidence to suggest that the five doctors were responsible for the death of Rajnis on June 2, 2003.

Then, the SDJM asked the prosecution to bring forward the first witness in the case. Up stepped Manoj Patel, father of a promising fast bowler who was gearing up for a trip to England last September, when accident and apathy intervened.

“Sir, my son was a promising cricketer on the Maidan. He had sustained an injury while playing a match on February 6 last year. We had rushed him to SSKM Hospital, where attending doctors detected that his left shin bone had broken…” Manoj Patel stuttered for a moment, only to regain his composure swiftly and continue his statement.

The noisy courtroom had turned silent by then, with all attention fixed on the father.

Manoj Patel went on: “My son was admitted to the Woodburn ward of SSKM under the care of orthopaedic surgeon D.K. Majumdar. On February 17 last year, the first of the several operations conducted on Rajnis was carried out… They placed a steel plate to repair the left shin bone. The surgery, by Souvik Bardhan and Jayanta Mondol, was not successful. A second surgery was carried out on Rajnis on March 3…” the father broke off again. “He was running temperature and was in a lot of pain.”

At this point, the court was adjourned for the day.

From inside the courtroom, the spotlight now shifted outside, where a large crowd, including lawyers, gathered to catch a glimpse of the accused doctors.

All five slipped out swiftly, followed a little later by Manoj Patel and wife Munni. “I was very nervous… and very sad,” were the father’s final words at the draw of stumps on Thursday.

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