THE ANTI-CORRUPTION Bureau (ACB) is scrutinising 550 proposals cleared since 2017 by Tushar Sawarkar, a social services superintendent of state-run JJ Hospital, arrested on Monday for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 80,000 for processing an organ transplant procedure. It has also been learnt that Sawarkar has been awarded a Lok Sabha Research Fellowship 2018-19 under the Speakers’ Research Initiative, the brainchild of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.
Sources said that for the fellowship, for which Sawarkar was selected in August this year, he made a proposal to write a book on the theme of organ transplantation and analysis of laws, policies and programmes related to it in central and state governments. The ACB submitted before a special court on Thursday while seeking further custody of Sawarkar (34) and Sachin Salve (32), organ transplant coordinator with SL Raheja Hospital, that the two were in touch for two years. The ACB also said it would scrutinise Salve’s association with other hospitals in Mumbai and Thane to determine if he had colluded with Sawarkar, similarly seeking bribes from donors.
Special public prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves told the court that Sawarkar had joined JJ Hospital in 2017, while Salve has been working with SL Raheja Hospital since August 2018. “We suspect that the bribe demanded by the accused was going to be shared with others as well. We want to probe further to find out who else is part of the state authorisation committee, which gave its approval for organ transplants and whether they were also involved,” Gonsalves told the court.
The committee, the chairperson of which is the medical superintendent of JJ Hospital, comprises six members. Gonsalves further said the ACB had recorded the statement of one more person, who claimed to have given Rs 10,000 to the accused for the procedure. The ACB also submitted before the court the conversation between the two accused and the complainant recorded on a voice-recorder, the latter was carrying at the time a trap was laid to catch the two red-handed on Monday. The ACB claimed that the accused could be heard negotiating the amount.
Advocate Prakash Salsingikar, representing Sawarkar told the court that there was no evidence of a conversation between the complainant and Sawarkar. He further said that as an active member of the JJ Hospital committee, appointed to process organ transplant procedures, Sawarkar was only following the law by scrutinising the process.
He also claimed that the investigators should scrutinise the video of the committee meeting, where the donor and the recipient were examined by the members on September 18. Salsingikar also said that four bank accounts of Sawarkar and two of his wife were examined by the ACB and that nothing incriminating was found. He added that Sawarkar, who has an MPhil and PhD degrees, had not sought any bribe and was himself living in a home, for which he was paying through a loan. Salve’s advocate also objected to the ACB’s plea seeking a 10-day extension of remand. Special Judge Dinesh Deshmukh granted police custody of the two accused till Saturday.