Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has granted pre-arrest bail to a Sangli hospital’s frontline workers who were booked under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act [Atrocities Act] for allegedly insulting a complainant belonging to scheduled caste by detaining the body of a relative.
While granting anticipatory bail, Justice SK Shinde observed that the body was allegedly detained because of unsettled hospital bills and not because the deceased belonged to the Scheduled Caste. “… Besides, FIR does not imply that appellants or hospital administration knew that the deceased belonged to ‘Scheduled Caste’,” observed Justice Shinde.
The court has said that in the event of arrest of Indrajit Patil and three other hospital staff, they are to be released on bail of Rs 25,000 each.
According to the prosecution, these employees of Prakash Hospital in Islampur, and a social worker (for extending help to the patients and their relatives) were providing medical treatment to Covid patients.
On May 2, 2021, the maternal uncle of the complainant who was suffering from Covid was admitted to the hospital and paid an advance deposit of Rs 3.5 lakh. They claimed they did not receive any receipt from the hospital. On May 18, the complainant’s uncle succumbed. The hospital staff asked the complainant to complete the formalities and clear the pending bills in order to take away the mortal remains of his uncle.
The complainant alleged that despite the deposit of Rs 3.5 lakh, the hospital asked them to pay an additional Rs 2,17,512 and refused to hand over the body. They claimed that the body was received following intervention of the local tehsildar. They filed the FIR on May 25.
Defence counsel Manoj Mohite argued that the hospital employees cannot be booked under the Atrocities Act as they were unaware about the fact that the patient belonged to the scheduled caste. Only when the dispute arose in respect of the cost of the treatment, the complainant disclosed the social background. Mohite further argued that the dispute also arose because the family members insisted on taking the body to Kolhapur against the protocol and the SOP issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The complainant’s lawyer Arvind Aswani argued that detaining the body over unsettled bills itself was insult and intimidation.
The HC said that even assuming that the body was detained for an unreasonable period of time, which caused insult and humiliation to the complainant, the fact remains that the detention alone would not constitute an offence under the Atrocities Act.
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