The Delhi High Court was Tuesday informed by a magistrate that poor conditions at a government hospital here was responsible for an eyeball that went missing from the body of a prisoner from the hospital mortuary. The magistrate submitted before the court his inquiry report into the missing body parts of a dead convict from the hospital.
He said the incident would not have happened if the hospital authorities were “more careful and vigilant”. A bench of Justice P.K. Bhasin and Justice J.R. Midha issued notice to the central government, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) on the poor conditions in hospitals and sought their responses by Feb 13.
The high court had earlier directed a judicial magistrate to hold an inquiry into the missing eyeball of Rajkumar, who was admitted to the government-run Rajan Babu Institute of Pulmonary Medicine and Tuberculosis (RBIPMT) for TB treatment Nov 27. He died Dec 9 last year.
Rajkumar was undergoing a life term for killing his wife. In his report, the magistrate, who inspected the RBIPMT hospital Dec 19, said the condition of the mortuary was poor and it had no cold storage for preservation of bodies.
“The mortuary was found not to be properly maintained and it urgently required repairs and whitewashing. There was a steel box in the mortuary that was found to be newly purchased Dec 18, 2013 for preservation of bodies.
Prior to that, the bodies were kept in open spaces on slabs in the mortuary room,” the report said. It said the open area around the mortuary was densely planted and thus the “menace of rodents and other small animals is prevalent”. The gate of the mortuary was also not closed properly.
The magistrate said the mortuary was understaffed, which was also a factor that led to the incident. He said there were also no eye-specialists or an eye department in the hospital. None of the experts who conducted the post-mortem examination could conclusively say whether the right eye of the man was surgically removed or it was nibbled by rats, he said.
“The eye was not removed deliberately or intentionally by any human being. Rather, it is a case of mischief by rodents that could have been averted if the hospital authorities were more careful and vigilant,” the report said. It also said police and jail authorities should have acted more promptly and diligently in giving information to the metropolitan magistrate.
There was an “unjustified and inordinate delay” of nearly 11 hours in giving information to the magistrate, the report said. The RBIPMT was one of the oldest hospitals that was established in 1935 in a huge area, but looking at its dilapidated condition, it seems that the government has not optimally utilised the space, it said.
During the hearing, advocate Dayan Krishnan appearing for government told the court that an advisory has been issued for all hospitals under the Delhi government on maintaining the dignity of the dead. The advisory has also been circulated to all private hospitals and nursing homes in the city.
As per the plea, Rajkumar’s body was kept in the mortuary and when it was shifted to the Babu Jagjivan Ram hospital for the post-mortem examination, it was found that his right eyeball and soft tissue of lower half of ear lobe were missing.