THE ENFORCEMENT Directorate has recently told the Bombay High Court to establish a medical board so as to ensure there is no repeat of allegations that former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal was receiving ‘preferential treatment’ at a private hospital in South Mumbai.
The central agency has also attached the CCTV footage from the 13th floor of the hospital where Bhujbal had been admitted until Tuesday to show the flurry of people who had come to visit Bhujbal. Bhujbal is an accused in the alleged multicrore money laundering scam, being probed by the agency.
Meanwhile, after a 35-day stay at Bombay Hospital, Bhujbal returned to state-run J J Hospital on Tuesday where an angiography needs to be performed. “The procedure requires two to three days but in case it is not completed we will write to J J Hospital,” said an official from the Arthur Road jail where the NCP leader has been lodged since his arrest in March this year.
However, the move to shift the NCP leader comes amid the controversy surrounding him receiving VIP treatment and an intervention application filed by activist Anjali Damania on the hospital visit. The Special Prevention of Money Laundering Act court had directed the Enforcement Directorate to file a reply in the matter, while directing J J Dean T P Lahane to be present at the next hearing on December 8.
“We are the investigating agency and Bhujbal is in judicial custody, so the onus is on the jails where the accused is lodged. But since there have been allegations of preferential treatment received by Bhujbal, we decided to conduct surprise checks at the Bombay Hospital in South Mumbai where he was admitted till Tuesday. The checks were based on a source-based information received by us which stated that Bhujbal was receiving VIP treatment,” a senior official from the agency said.
“We have recently told the court that to ensure that his medical checks up, admissions and treatments are fool proof, a medical board should be constituted that could take a call on what kind of treatment needs to be given to Bhujbal and also decide on the hospitals where he could receive the treatment,” added the official.
However, after studying the CCTV footage, the agency found that most of the people who were visiting Bhujbal regularly were his family members. “A few politicians also visited Bhujbal but majority of the time the visitors were his family members, including his son Pankaj Bhujbal and his grandchildren,” added the source.
The investigation by the ED at Bombay Hospital comes just days after an intervention application was filed by activist Damania who says it is “sheer negligence of duty” of state-run J J Hospital and Arthur Road jail that Bhujbal has been in Bombay Hospital since November 2.
From correspondence made available to the court, it emerges that Bombay Hospital wrote to the J J Hospital dean on November 4 seeking the results of the other two tests for further medical procedures.
Damania claims that it was only on November 7 that the jail authorities wrote to J J Hospital seeking an update on Bhujbal’s health. “It appears that the respondent number 2 (Arthur Road jail superintendent) was completely unaware of the whereabouts of his accused patient as the records show that the first letter seeking information on the state of health was sought by him on November 7, which was nearly 11 days after the accused was moved out of prison,” Damania’s intervention application states.
She adds that no information was sought despite the fact that Thallium tests are simple OPD procedures that don’t require admission to hospital.
The response to the Arthur Road jail superintendent’s letter was given by J J Hospital on November 8 stating that Bhujbal had been referred to Bombay Hospital and was discharged on November 2.