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HC questions police role in organ racket

Cuttack, July 24: Orissa High Court today ruled that the police were “not authorised to investigate” cases of violation of the Transplantation of Human Organ Act, 1994.

In such cases, the appropriate authority is the Medical Education and Training (DMET) director, who heads the authorisation committee to allow organ transplants.

The court gave the ruling in an interim order on a petition seeking release of N. Prabhakar Babu, director (medical) of Seven Hills Hospital at Vishakhapatnam. Odisha police arrested him in connection with an alleged kidney sale racket on June 16.

While granting interim bail to Babu, the court directed the investigating officer in the case to take immediate steps to file a complaint under the act with the competent authority in the state. The court, however, gave the DMET the liberty to undertake the investigation itself or entrust the case to the CBI.

The court also directed the state government to communicate to all other states to ensure that no kidney transplant was conducted in case of a patient from the state without no-objection certificate from the authorisation committee.

The court fixed October 20 as deadline for submission of compliance report by way of affidavit and date for next hearing.

The court asked the state government “to formulate guidelines for regulating the transplanting of human organs” and register hospitals as “organ transplant centres”. It also expressed concern that there had been reports indicating lack of proper examination of documents by hospital authorities before conducting kidney transplants, use of forged documents and innocent persons being duped for money.

The racket surfaced when one Namita Nayak of Cuttack, who had “donated” her kidney to one Mohan Chandra Lenka of Bhubaneswar, lodged a complaint at Mangalabag police station on May 31. She stated that she was lured into the surgery at Seven Hills Hospital at Vishakhapatnam and the financial commitment was not fulfilled.

Babu has been in jail since July 3. His wife, N. Ratnakumari, had filed the petition, seeking his release and alleging that “the police have no power to register an FIR and arrest a person under the act”.

In the interim order, the court granted Babu interim bail and described his arrest was “patently illegal” as it was made without orders from the competent authority. The police had no power to register the FIR in this case. Besides, the arrest was also illegal under the Criminal Procedure Code as the police had not recorded the reasons for arrest.

“The division bench of Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice S.K. Sahoo granted the interim bail on furnishing of personal bond of Rs 10 lakh and two local sureties of a like amount,” petitioner’s counsel Satyabrata Pradhan told The Telegraph.

“The court also ordered for a fixed deposit of Rs 2 lakh in a nationalised bank in the name of the accused or any relative while giving the Cuttack SDJM the liberty to set any other condition for release on interim bail,” Pradhan said.

One Sharmistha Nayak allegedly, along with her husband Dilip Nayak, had lured Namita into the kidney sale for a promised sum, and post surgery, she was paid 40 per cent of the assured amount. The deal was allegedly worked out by one Rashmiranjan Khatua, a middleman.

According to the act, one condition is that organs can be donated by relatives of the patient. Namita was produced as Bonita Lenka, wife of Mohan Chandra Lenka with the help of forged documents. Even the voter ID card and the residence proof were forged. Believing the documents, the hospital authorities had gone ahead with the surgery.