Gurgaon-based lab ‘SRL Limited’, a diagnostic firm, has moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking quashing of an FIR lodged against it for allegedly misreporting Covid-19 test results, submitting that the FIR “has been registered in haste and without any application of mind”.
The lab had been booked by Haryana Police on July 9, under Section 53 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and sections 188, 336, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC.
The single bench of Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul issued notice to the Haryana government for a reply, and also directed that in the meantime, the investigation should continue, but the report under Section 173 CrPC. (chargesheet) may not be filed till the next date of hearing which is scheduled for August 25.
The petitioner, SRL Limited, through its counsel, senior advocate R S Rai, has submitted that it was designated as a private laboratory for testing of Covid-19 in Haryana and an agreement was signed with the Haryana Medical Service Corporation Limited (HMSCL) from April 4 till April 20 this year. The lab carried out 1,522 tests using ICMR approved kits, and 44 samples tested positive.
Meanwhile, the Ambala civil surgeon complained there had been misreporting with respect to some samples, which had tested positive, by the SRL lab. Fifteen samples were sent to PGI, Rohtak, for retesting, which later tested negative. Following a showcause notice, the MoU signed between HSMCL and the SRL lab was canceled and on July 9, 2020, the FIR was registered against the lab.
The counsel for the petitioner lab submitted that the allegations leveled in the FIR in question, even if accepted in their entirety, do not disclose the commission of any offence, much less any cognizable offence, while the firm had conducted the tests with ICMR approved kits and as per MoHFW (GOI) guidelines. It has also been contended by the petitioner that the world over, an error of 10-12 per cent is being seen with respect to the diagnostic tests being carried out for Covid-19 and as such on this count if at all, an error has crept in, though not admitted, it would be unreasonable on the part of the authorities to allege malafide intent.
It has been argued that a bare perusal of FIR, its contents does not by any stretch of imagination attract the mischief of sections 53 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, read with other sections of IPC, and therefore, leaves no manner of doubt that the FIR has been registered in haste and without any application of mind, more so, when the alleged misreporting is premised upon a diagnostic result of PGI Rohtak, which had tested the samples sent to it at a different point of time and by using different kits from the one used by SRL Lab.
Punjab’s Tulli Diagnostic lab doctors arrest stayed
Meanwhile, hearing the anticipatory bail plea of Amritsar’s Tulli lab doctors, Dr Mohinder Singh, Dr Ridhum Tuli and Dr Robin Tuli, the High Court bench of Justice Jaishree Thakur stayed their arrest till the next date of hearing of case scheduled for August 17.
The HC has also sought for investigation report of the medical board to be placed before the court along with a photocopy of 72 positive reports purported to have been hand-written.
In the resumed hearing on Friday, the Punjab government submitted that the matter is seized of by the medical board constituted on June 18.
During investigation, 72 cases were declared positive by Tuli Diagnostic Centre, Majithia Road, Amritsar and cycle threshold values were hand-written on test requisition slips. No printout was available for examination and no raw data or graph was present to know whether the figures given by the lab match those generated by the machine. R S Rai, senior counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner, contended that the reports are in fact computer generated and there might be a noting on the side of computerised reports regarding Covid-19 Virus Qualitative PCR.
The accused petitioners (doctors) were booked on charges of murder bid, fraud, criminal conspiracy and corruption, and are accused of fleecing patients by issuing wrong Covid-positive reports.
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