Dr. Kafeel Ahmed Khan, a paediatrician with Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, who was recently sacked by the Yogi Adityanath government, will challenge the termination order in court.
“My family and I have realised in the course of the past few years that someone has to speak up for justice… for all those oppressed by the powers that be. I would keep up my fight and challenge in court what to me is a wrongful termination,” the doctor, who was first suspended in 2017 on charges of negligence and corruption in the encephalitis deaths case, said at a press conference at the Press Club of India, New Delhi, on Monday. Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, national president, Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, was also present at the conference.
Khan and seven others were suspended after more than 60 children, along with adults, had died due to a shortage of medical oxygen at the medical college in August 2017. In September 2019, a state government inquiry, however, had absolved Khan of any negligence.
The recent termination order, communicated earlier this month by UP principal secretary (medical education) Alok Kumar, was issued after Khan was found guilty in the probe into the circumstances that led to the death of children, according to media reports. Since the matter is sub judice, Kumar had said that detailed information about Khan’s dismissal will be provided to the court.
On Monday, Khan challenged the termination order saying that despite being cleared by “not one but several” committees, he was the “only one” to not be reinstated. “The UP government had terminated me from my services on November 9 even as the case is pending in the Allahabad High Court (HC),” he said. An Allahabad HC Bench too had observed in August that the state government is obliged to justify the continuance of the order on Khan’s suspension, which has been continuing for more than four years.
Alleging that he is being made a “scapegoat” to save “those who are close to the people in power”, Khan demanded an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the BRD oxygen tragedy “to rule out any complicity of state officials in the incident. This is nothing but an attempt to intimidate me… and yet all such attempts to silence me have made me all the more conscious of what I owe to society”.
The doctor also demanded that the UP government must publicly apologise to the grieving parents who lost their children and accept their demand for a compensation of Rs 20 lakh for each aggrieved family.
Bhatti, who had supported Khan in 2017, told Newsclick that the termination will have a “serious negative impact” on all the government doctors across the country. “The 2017 tragedy was an administrative failure; it couldn’t be a doctor’s fault. And yet, Dr. Khan has been wrongly terminated for it. The message here is clear for all the doctors across the country: they must not raise their voice against the government or even point out its mistakes—or else, be ready for consequences,” the former AIIMS Resident Doctor’s Association president said adding that the revocation of Khan’s termination is important to ensure accountability at government hospitals.
In 2019, Khan was suspended for the second time for allegedly forcibly treating patients at the Bahraich District Hospital and for criticising the government’s policies. In September, the Allahabad HC stayed the second suspension order.
Last year, Khan was also booked under the stringent National Security Act for an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, speech he delivered at Aligarh Muslim University in December 2019 in the wake of anti-CAA-National Register of Citizens protests. However, in that case, too, the Allahabad HC had set aside the criminal proceedings against him for want of government sanction.