HC issues notices to health ministry, AIIMS over graft cases

The Delhi High Court today issued notices to union health minister J P Nadda, the health ministry, and the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences on a petition seeking a CBI inquiry into various instances of irregularities and corruption in the hospital raised by its then watchdog Sanjiv Chaturvedi.

A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice R S Endlaw also issued notices to the Central Vigilance Commission and Sanjiv Chaturvedi, and asked them to file their responses by 22 April.

The notices followed a public interest case filed by the NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) through advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is also a member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), now governing Delhi.

It may be recalled that Kejriwal's AAP has sought the services of Indian Forest Service officer Chaturvedi, a known whistle-blower.

Bhushan has sought a revival of all cases in which action was initiated by Chaturvedi before he was removed by the then union health minister Harsh Vardhan in August last year from his post as chief vigilance officer of AIIMS, one of Delhi's premier medical institutions.

The petition contended that Chaturvedi started initiating action in corruption cases related to various malpractices, including "supply of dubious medicines by a private chemist shop, having influential political nexus, role of middlemen in making fake OPD cards".

The PIL also asked Nadda to recuse himself from all cases and from acting as a disciplinary authority, alleging that he had "unfettered powers to influence the course of proceedings in all the corruption cases".

Bhushan alleged that Nadda actively participated in dismantling the newly set up vigilance administration and halted all inquiries initiated by Chaturvedi by writing numerous letters to various central ministries from May 2013 to June 2014.

The PIL alleged that "in many cases, investigation has been slowed down" relating to serious irregularities including "wastage in purchase of surgery equipment and other medical items, use of fake propriety certificates in purchases, irregularities in recruitment/ appointment including consultants, irregularities in computerisation work, irregularities and breach of confidentiality in exam process, unauthorised foreign visit of senior faculty members in violation of MCI regulations".

Any type of corruption in such a premier institute is likely to have a direct and severe bearing on the health and well-being of thousands of patients visiting the institute, the petition said.

Earlier this month, Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal wrote to the central government asking it to immediately relieve Chaturvedi as deputy secretary at AIIMS, ans send him on deputation to the Delhi government.

In his two-year stint as anti-graft officer at AIIMS, Chaturvedi had successfully completed more than 150 investigations in which officials were charged and penalised.

He was conducting investigations in several other corruption cases when he was moved out on the orders of the health minister.

Last year, the AAP, along with more than 200 AIIMS faculty members, researchers and scientists had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding that Chaturvedi be reinstated as chief vigilance officer at the institute.