Kunal and Anuradha in 1991, seven years before her death
He lost his wife, then his house and almost his job, but Kunal Saha soldiered on because he had a battle to win.
After a 15-year campaign to get justice for wife Anuradha — and win the highest-ever compensation in a medico-legal case in India — you would think the Ohio-based AIDS researcher is finally at peace.
But victory can be bitter-sweet.“Money (Rs 6.08 crore) can’t compensate for what I have had to endure. However, the Supreme Court’s verdict will have far-reaching consequences for India’s health care system. Doctors and hospitals will be far more responsible,” Kunal told Metro over phone from the US on Thursday.
Back in 1998, Kunal and wife Anuradha had just bought a house in the US and were looking forward to starting a family when tragedy struck during a trip to India. Anuradha died in May that year of a skin ailment that was apparently misdiagnosed by doctors at AMRI Hospitals in Dhakuria.
Over the next decade and a half, Kunal, 53, would spend Rs 6-8 crore in fighting a case that became a “crusade” for him. “Anuradha kept me going. I had to get justice for her even though I was financially drained,” he recalled.
The battle had begun in June 1998 with Kunal filing a criminal case against AMRI Hospitals and the four doctors who had treated his wife in Alipore court.
There were times when frustration seemed to get the better of Kunal but he never gave up. “I had to spend months in India. My advocates told me that I needed to be present at the hearings. otherwise there was no hope for victory,” he recounted.
Kunal travelled back and forth from the US, sometimes spending up to four months in India at the risk of losing his job there.
“I often argued the case myself, twice at the Supreme Court. Not that I couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer, but because of my passion for the case. I had to study hard.”
Kunal said he had argued the case on at least eight occasions, including the final one, based on which the Supreme Court awarded higher compensation than the amount fixed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, was also by the NRI researcher.
A graduate from NRS Medical College and Hospital with a PhD from the University of Texas, Kunal had to pay a heavy price for his persistence.
In 2005, Ohio University rejected Kunal’s tenure because of his long absences to fight the case in India. A lawsuit is pending in an Ohio court against the university’s decision.
“Now I work as a lecturer, AIDS researcher and also do private medical practice. But I don’t have a permanent job and I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” Kunal said.
In 2011, Kunal filed for bankruptcy. The same year, his house was under foreclosure because he was unable to pay the mortgage.
Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments by forcing the sale of the asset.
“I stay in a rented apartment now,” Kunal said.