Over 20 days after the death of children at BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, allegedly due to shortage of oxygen, Dr Kafeel Khan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police Special Task Force from a village in Sahjanwa locality of Gorakhpur, on Saturday morning. Khan, who has been suspended from the hospital, had a non-bailable warrant against him, along with six others. The arrest marked the third time Khan has had a run-in with the law, with two previous cases later closed. The doctor was in-charge of Ward No. 100, the paediatric section where the deaths happened, and was at first hailed for giving money from his pocket to purchase oxygen cylinders as parents panicked.
Among the allegations the doctor is since fighting are of impersonating in an exam and of rape, of giving a wrong affidavit to the Chief Medical Officer of Gorakhpur, and of running a private clinic. The charge of submitting a wrong affidavit was made during an inquiry by the Chief Secretary, but it is not clear as to what this affidavit was for. The Sunday Express spoke to the doctor’s family members, colleagues and several police officials over the past month to put together the story of Dr Kafeel Khan.
The first case against him dates back to 2009. On September 27 that year, as per the Delhi Police, the principal of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Janakpuri, complained that during the National Board of Examinations held to test Indian nationals with foreign medical qualifications, Kafeel Ahmed Khan, then a medical student at Manipal University, was found to be impersonating Dr Vijay Kumar. Other such cases of impersonations were also caught, with admit cards not matching persons writing the examination.
All the doctors involved were arrested. However, later Khan and the others were discharged by the court. “It is a closed case now,” a senior official of the Delhi Police told The Sunday Express. The second case in which Khan was later cleared was of rape, registered at the Mahila Police Station, Gorakhpur. A woman complained that she was raped by Kafeel and his brother on the pretext of giving a job in 2015. However, police closed the case after reportedly finding that the allegations were not true. Police sources said they also found that the woman used to work for a business rival of Khan’s brother.
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Shalini Singh, SHO, Mahila Police Station, said the investigation was conducted by the City Police Station and confirmed that a final report had been filed in the case in 2015 itself.
The son of a former Public Works Department executive engineer, Khan comes from a family of “zamindars (landlords)” on his maternal side, who claim to own large plots of land in Rustampur area of Gorakhpur. The family was proud of Khan for being the first doctor in their clan, and his cousins helped him set up a clinic in Rustampur when he returned to Gorakhpur in 2013 after finishing his post-graduation. It came up at the site of a school, and was later upgraded to a nine-bed hospital called ‘Medi-Spring’.
Khan’s wife is a dentist, and the family says the two had a baby girl six months ago. Since August 12, after news broke of the children dying at BRD Medical College allegedly due to oxygen shortage, both the hospital and a medical store owned by the family next to it have been shut.
To allegations that Khan ran a private practice despite holding a government job, the family, that has been trying to gather support for him on social media, says he stopped working at Medi-Spring after getting regular posting at BRD Medical College in August last year as a lecturer. Khan’s cousin Khamar, who is the owner of Medi-Spring Hospital, says, “He is the first doctor in the family. As planned, as soon as he finished his post-graduation, we used the land to first build a clinic and then upgraded it to a hospital. The clinic was started on August, 13, 2013, and on November 14, we started the pediatric facility.” Khamar’s father and Khan’s mother are siblings.
Khamar adds that Khan worked at Medi-Spring only till he was employed on contract basis with BRD Medical College under the National Rural Health Mission.
The family members add that they never wanted Khan to take up the full-time job at BRD Medical College, but he insisted. “Probably he wanted to gain experience,” says another cousin.
“Also, once you are a doctor at a government hospital, you already have a name by the time you have your own set-up. We wanted him to return to the family-owned hospital and resume operations. We were very clear about that,” adds a relative.
Of Khan’s three brothers and two sisters, the youngest, Faseel, is now studying to become a doctor. He is studying orthopaedics at Aligarh Muslim University. “He is a junior resident. When Faseel returns, we will start hospital operations again,” says Khamar.
The staff at BRD hospital say they didn’t know about the previous cases against Khan, and believe some of his troubles now could be linked to his love for the limelight.
BRD Medical College staff talk about the “aura” he had built around him, including the big signboard with his name on it outside Ward No. 100. No other doctor, in any other ward, or even heads of department at the medical college, have this kind of signboard. After Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s visit, when sources said he commented on the signboard, Khan’s name was covered with black paint.
However, the staff members say, he was a “sincere” doctor. “The controversies of the past are his personal matter, we have no knowledge about them. Though I have only recently joined, staff tell me he was a good worker and sincere at his job,” P K Singh, the officiating principal of BRD Medical College, told The Sunday Express.
As far as private practice is concerned, he added, the chief medical officer and district magistrate are looking into the allegations.
About reports that Khan had paid from his pocket for oxygen cylinders to be bought, no one at the hospital confirms it. However, all of them say they saw him working in the ward that day and don’t know how he had arranged the cylinders.
A family member asks why Khan was the first one to be suspended after the principal, when charges against him are not clear as he was neither responsible for oxygen, nor was he the Head of the Department. He was merely a “nodal officer” at the ward, the relative said.
Of the nine officials booked in the case, three have now been arrested, including Khan and the then principal of the hospital and his wife, Dr Rajeev Mishra and Dr Purnima Shukla.
DIG, STF, Manoj Tiwari said, “Acting on information that Dr Kafeel was hiding in a village in Sahjanwa area and would be changing his hideout early in the morning, a police team rushed to the spot. STF officials caught Dr Kafeel while he was on his way to another hideout.”
SSP, Gorakhpur, Satyarth Aniruddha Pankaj said the STF had handed over Khan’s custody to the Gorakhpur police. “Six other accused named in the FIR are still on the run. If they remain untraceable, we will move court seeking permission to attach their properties,” said the SSP.
The six are Dr Satish Kumar (Head of Anesthesia), chief pharmacists Gajanand Jaiswal and Uday Pratap Sharma, clerks Sanjay Kumar Tripathi and Sudhir Kumar Pandey, and Manish Bhandari. Except for Bhandari, the proprietor of the company responsible for supply of liquid oxygen to BRD Medical College, the others are government employees and have been suspended.