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BRD Tragedy: Probe Absolves Dr Kafeel, Silent on Real Culprits

Tarique Anwar |
The government has still not acknowledged that the shortage of liquid oxygen caused the deaths.
BRD Hospital Tragedy

New Delhi: A high-level enquiry committee, which was investigating into the deaths of 63 children in Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, absolved Dr Kafil Ahmad Khan of major charges of medical negligence and dereliction of duty, but its 15-page report is silent on as to who is the real culprit to be held accountable for the loss of innocent lives.

More than 30 children died within 48 hours on the intervening night of August 10 and 11, 2017 in the government-run hospital. The incident, which horrified the country and made global news, was allegedly caused because the hospital ran out of oxygen on the fateful night, asphyxiating the children—mostly infants—being treated in the encephalitis ward. The toll went over 60 in less than a week.

The shortage of oxygen occurred after a Lucknow-based private company, Pushpa Sales, cut off supply following repeated reminders to the state-run hospital that its dues of approximately Rs 65 lakh needed to be paid.

Also read: Is Dr.Kafeel Being Unjustly Accused in Gorakhpur’s Children’s Death Case?

A paediatrician in the hospital, Khan, had emerged as a hero for going extra mile and saving several the lives of hundreds of children by arranging oxygen cylinders, but later was portrayed as a villain behind the tragedy. The case took a political turn with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath blaming the doctor for the deaths while denying that it occurred due to a shortage of oxygen at the government hospital.

Soon after, he was suspended, slapped with criminal cases of medical negligence, corruption and dereliction of duty and sent behind bars. He walked out of jail after bail granted by the Allahabad High court in May 2018—nine months after he was arrested.

Apart from the charges of private practice, there were two major allegations against Dr Khan: (a) he was nodal officer of the 100-bed AES ward and he did not inform his senior officials about the shortage of oxygen cylinders—which was a medical negligence; (b) being a nodal officer of the AES ward, he was responsible for ensuring proper treatment, facilities for patients and managing staff in the paediatrics department. “But his conduct was highly irresponsible, and he failed to carry out his administrative responsibilities.”

Formed in August 2017, the commission of inquiry, which was supposed to submit its report to the state government within three months of its constitution, filed the report five months ago on April 18, 2019 after the Allahabad High Court asked the state government on March 7, 2019 to expedite the inquiry within 90 days of its order.

Also read: Gorakhpur Tragedy Exclusive: FIR Blames Oxygen Interruption, CMO Report Says Otherwise

Asked why the panel delayed its inquiry and submitted its report two years after the incident, Himanshu Kumar, principal secretary (Stamp and Registration Department) to the Uttar Pradesh government, who was heading the probing team, told NewsClick, “(The investigation got delayed) because accused being in jail (had) requested time to reply once out on bail.”

To another question as to why the report—which was submitted to the government—supplied to the accused so late, his said, “The administrative department that is medical education (the office of director general of medical education) can answer that.”

When queried since his report has absolved Dr Khan of charges of negligence, dereliction of duty and corruption, who does he think is the real culprit, why is his report silent on it and doesn’t he think that doctors were made scapegoat to save director general medical education (DGME) and state’s health minister who are directly associated with the payment process, he said, “That I have indicated in the report. It’s up to medical education department to go ahead with fresh inquiry.”

Calls made to UP DGME KK Gupta for his comments went unanswered. This correspondent has send him a list of questions, asking him now: (a) who he thinks is responsible for the deaths of over 60 poor children; (b) will he now accept that there was shortage of liquid oxygen and it caused the tragedy; (c) why was the dues of Pushpa Sales not cleared in time despite several reminders by the official supplier for the same, (d) doesn’t he think that Dr Kafil and others were made scapegoat and why shouldn’t he now be held accountable?

NewsClick is awaiting for his response. If he replies, the story will be updated.

The inquiry panel has concluded that Dr Khan is not guilty of the charges brought against him by the DGME.


The report did not find any evidence of medical negligence and corruption against Dr Khan. The report clearly states that he was neither nodal officer of the 100-bed AES ward, where the deaths had occurred, nor did he have anything to do with the “payments, supply, storage, arrangements and tendering” of liquid oxygen.

The report in fact applauds Dr Khan for making all possible efforts to save lives “given the seriousness of the situation in spite of being on leave”. The report states that he rushed to the hospital and made arrangements for a “jumbo oxygen cylinder” given the sudden shortage of liquid oxygen.

Also read: Dr Kafeel Khan Gets Clean-chit But Struggles to Continue

Though Dr Khan was not involved in procurement of the liquid oxygen for the hospital, the reports adds, “The hospital could arrange 500 jumbo cylinders from different companies on August 11 and August 12 due to his (Dr Khan’s) honest efforts.”

The inquiry officer further said his investigation found no evidence that Dr Khan was doing private medical practice when the incident took place.

The charges of medical negligence, dereliction of duty and corruption against Dr Khan are “baseless and inconsistent”, concludes the report.

Though the state government has still not admitted that there had been shortage of oxygen in the hospital. In an interview to The Indian Express, Chief Minister Adityanath, referring to efforts made by Dr Khan to arrange oxygen cylinders, said, “It was drama we are supposed to believe.”

But the inquiry report—based on a recent RTI reply—refutes his claims. “There was a shortage of liquid oxygen at the BRD Medical College on August 11 and August 12, 2017 for 54 hours,” the stated.

Even in an affidavit filed in the Allahabad High Court, the government had accepted shortage of oxygen supply to the hospital. The High Court in its order on April 30, 2018 had observed that there was shortage of liquid oxygen due to abrupt disruption of liquid oxygen supply which happened due to non-payment of dues to the supplier.


The UP government on September 27 issued a public statement, claiming that the inquiry report has not given a clean chit to Dr Khan and that the investigation against him is still on.

“An additional departmental inquiry is investigating into the charge of indiscipline and not following rules. He has only been cleared of the accusations of dereliction of duty and failure to inform senior hospital officials about the shortage of oxygen cylinders,” it said.

Also read: Exclusive: Dr Kafeel Khan Says Oxygen Shortage 'Accelerated Mortality' in Gorakhpur Tragedy

Dr Khan has been given a copy of the inquiry report for his reply. “A final decision is still pending,” it added.


Reacting to the inquiry committee’s report, Dr Khan said he is grateful that “baseless” allegations against him now “stand clarified”. “My main concern is the government-sponsored victimisation, which is still continuing. It must end now. The government should revoke my suspension at the earliest and give my job back with all due respect,” he said.

Talking about complicity of state officials, he said, “I wish the BRD Hospital tragedy be investigated by the CBI to rule out any complicity of state officials and to thoroughly inquire the culpability of persons who were actually in charge and failed to clear the dues to the supplier.”

He said the UP government should offer a public apology to the parents who lost their children. “The government should also compensate them,” he added.

Also read: Exclusive: Out On Bail, Dr. Kafeel Asks "I Saved Many Children's Lives. Is that a Crime?"

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