Investigations into the alleged abortion racket in Solapur’s Akluj area where a doctor couple has been arrested showed that while their maternity home had permission to conduct sonography and deliveries, it was never registered to conduct abortions. Of 36 abortions conducted in a span of 18 months at Siya Maternity home, the couple conducted sex determination in at least five but maintained poor or no records, investigations revealed.
Radiologist Tejas Gandhi and gynaecologist Priti Gandhi have now been booked under various sections of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971, and the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act for violations. They remain in judicial custody. “Under the MTP Act, registration with a civil surgeon to carry out abortions is necessary. The couple had not registered themselves,” said Dr Satish Pawar, director of the Directorate of Health Services.
According to Solapur civil surgeon Mallikarjun Pattanshetti, inspections found that documentation, records of forms and consent forms required for conducting tests on pregnant women were poorly maintained. “In some cases, there are no records. Specially if abortion has been conducted,” Pattanshetti said. Incidentally, sonography centres have to be visited routinely by state health officials for compliance. In this case, the couple was able to carry out 36 abortions for 18 months without any hassle.
Health officials and police are now probing whether all 36 aborted foetuses were female. Of these cases, public health department found evidence that sex determination test was conducted in at least five abortions. The police has so far recovered two dead foetuses, first of a Wai couple from Satara, and second of an Akluj couple from a village outside Akluj. The foetuses have been sent for DNA analysis to confirm sex. “Sex determination was done in Satara and subsequent abortion was carried out in Solapur. We have arrested homeopathic doctor Sikander Adam Shaikh from Satara,” said investigating officer Arun Sawant.
Shaikh would conduct illegal sonography tests on couples and refer them to Akluj to undergo termination. Police have been able to identify 13 such couples who underwent abortion. Search for foetuses is under way.
In four cases where the Gandhi couple conducted abortion, records show abortion was carried out due to abnormal foetal growth. In one case, records show the baby had hydrocephalus, which is excessive fluid collection in brain. In another case, the foetus had died within womb, termed as missed abortion. “There is no supportive evidence in these cases as records have not been properly maintained,” the Solapur civil surgeon said.
On August 24, police and health officials had set up a decoy case to raid the couple’s maternity home. In 2007, radiologist Tejas had been arrested with father Dr Pradip Gandhi under the PCPNDT Act. Back then, he worked as a technician, but was subsequently acquitted of all charges, along with his father.