The disappearance of an 82-year-old Covid patient, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, from a hospital has become a mystery.
The man had gone missing from the hospital during the second-wave of Covid, and he continues to remain untraceable. The family, which ran from pillar to post, is not content with compensation offered by the Uttar Pradesh government. Taking into consideration this scenario, the Supreme Court directed the Uttar Pradesh government to conduct a proper investigation into the matter and submit a report in two months.
On Wednesday, a bench, headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, said: "We are of the opinion that proper investigation has to be completed in the matter and the status report be filed. We direct the petitioners - state of UP - to conduct proper investigation of the incident and file a status report within a period of two months from today."
The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on September 30. The Uttar Pradesh government was represented by Additional Advocate General Garima Prasad.
Advocate Vinod Kumar Tewari, representing the son of the man, said: "My client's father is untraceable. The state government is offering only Rs 50,000, as compensation which is not acceptable to us. The apex court had directed the UP government to conduct a proper investigation in two months, as there is no clue of the whereabouts of my client's father."
The top court, in its order on Wednesday, noted: "Senior counsel appearing for the respondent (son of the missing person) has objected to the compensation proposed to be paid by the state and insists on prayer (a) made in the Writ Petition filed before the High Court."
The top court passed the direction while hearing a plea by the Uttar Pradesh government against the Allahabad High Court's order to produce the man before it on May 6, failing which the state officers were to remain personally present before the court. The top court had stayed this order, however pulled up the Uttar Pradesh government for not being able to trace the man.
The top court had then queried UP's Additional Advocate General how could the man goAmissing, as his oxygen level was low and he was also unable to walk. "It has been one year he's been missing. Imagine the family's desperation. Look at the agony of family." it had said.
The AAG submitted that the state has not left any stone unturned to trace the man and deployed all resources to find him, yet he is untraceable. The bench further queried, has the state government looked for his body? Counsel replied that concerned authorities have checked all cremation centres in Prayagraj.
Justice Murari had then remarked: "Mean, he vanished in the air?"
The counsel replied that the incident took place during the peak of the second Covid wave, and added that the Allahabad High Court has asked to produce the corpse, but in a missing person case, it is not possible. The counsel further elaborated that the authorities have even put up coloured posters and ran information regarding the missing person on TV and radio, however the high court had summoned 8 officers, including the Chief Secretary of the state.
The bench queried, how much compensation will the state government pay?
"We are in your hands. He was 82 years old. He was a junior engineer in Kaushambi," said counsel, adding that FSL is still examining the CCTV footage.
A habeas corpus petition was filed by the man's son before the Allahabad High Court seeking his father's release from the hospital's custody. In April, the high court directed the state government officials to produce the man before the court on May 6, failing which, the state officers were to remain personally present before it. The Uttar Pradesh government moved the top court challenging this order.
The top court also directed the state to pay an amount of Rs 50,000 to the respondents as an initial amount to cover the litigation expenses.
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