Dr Sudhir Gupta may have stirred a hornet’s nest with his allegations of “pressure” to doctor Sunanda Pushkar’s autopsy report, but his own past at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences is chequered. His annual confidential reports (ACRs) tell the story of a man whose assessment by his seniors swings between “very poor” and “outstanding” in the same year and over the years questions have been raised about his integrity.
More than one annual confidential report termed him “not worth retaining”. However, when he became eligible for promotion to the post of professor, an ACR signed by the then head of the department of forensic medicine Dr T D Dogra was overruled by director Dr R C Deka and a fresh ACR prepared after Dr Dogra demitted office. This ensured that Dr Gupta had the two requisite “outstanding” ratings in his ACR that would enable him to be promoted.
Allegations of plagiarism have dogged him since 2004. As far back as in 1996, when Dr Gupta was a senior demonstrator in the department he now heads, three of his seniors Dr R K Sharma, Dr D N Bhardwaj and Dr O P Murty — the man with whom he is now vying for the post of head of the department of forensic medicine — wrote to the then AIIMS director about his “doubtful integrity”. In 2010 when AIIMS was preparing a list of officers with “doubtful integrity”, Dr Gupta’s name was submitted by head of the department Dr T D Dogra.
His ACR for 2010-11 rated as “very poor” his professional competence, research, teaching and administrative abilities. Then head of the department of forensic medicine Dr Dogra wrote: “He is highly suspicious, quarrelsome, disobedient, ready to threaten, undisciplined (sic), blieve (sic) in speaking lies, untrustworthy, he is a person of doubtful integrity… he openly claims support of director office and AIIMS administration.” He assessed that Dr Gupta is “not worth retaining in the present position”. Director Dr R C Deka overruled Dr Dogra and wrote he is biased so his comments may be ignored. “He is very good”, he wrote on November 1, 2013.
Subsequently, a fresh ACR was prepared — Dr Gupta had not filled in his portions in the earlier one but he did so in the new one that was backdated.
Dr D N Bharadwaj, who had by then become head of the department, rated his abilities as “very good” and the overall assessment was outstanding. “Dr S K Gupta has thorough knowledge of subject and has good potential to be future leader in speciality,” Dr Bharadwaj wrote on August 8, 2012. In August 2013, Dr Gupta became the head of the department.
In 2004 the ethics committee of Medical Council of India unanimously recommended that Dr Gupta’s name be erased from the medical register for a year over allegations of plagiarism. The MCI board subsequently overruled it on grounds of jurisdiction and referred the matter to the Delhi Medical Council with which he is registered. DMC found itself unable to adjudicate as the complainant did not respond. The matter was disposed of in 2009. Five years later, locked in a legal battle over headship of the department, Dr Gupta on June 15 this year lodged a complaint with the British Medical Council against Dr Guy Norfolk, the complainant, for filing a false case against him.
Dr Gupta says his past is being dug up to defame him in order to divert attention from the Pushkar case. “My character is not an issue here, it is about what happened to Sunanda Pushkar. I am fighting for the truth yet AIIMS is after me, treating me like a stepson. My colleagues are jealous because I became HoD at a young age. Frivolous complaints against me have been engineered by my own teacher. I met Dr Norfolk at a seminar and he told me he has never complained but would not give it in writing for fear of litigation. I could have gone as the head of AIIMS Patna but chose not to go because I wanted to do something good in this department.”
Asked why he chose to make the accusations now instead of earlier when Pushkar died, he said: “I am giving the final report now. I did not succumb to pressure, I did not change the report. I did not mention it then because handling high profile cases like I do there are always pressures. How many people do I complain about? The administration wants a different autopsy report but I will not compromise my work ethics.”