The owner of Lucknow-based Sun Hospital, booked for allegedly “spreading rumours” about oxygen shortage, was arrested on Tuesday on charges of assaulting and robbing a TV news channel employee.
The news channel employee has claimed that Akhilesh Pandey assaulted him on Monday night inside the hospital.
However, Pandey’s wife Preeti has alleged that the arrest and the entire case is part of a conspiracy to put pressure on Pandey because he refused to toe the line of the administration after an FIR was lodged against him for “spreading rumours over oxygen shortage at the hospital on May 3”.
On May 5, Pandey was booked on the basis of a complaint from the Lucknow administration. After the FIR, the hospital administration, which had put up a notice on May 3 asking relatives to take away patients as it was facing oxygen shortage, had moved the Allahabad High Court challenging the FIR.
On May 11, the Allahabad High Court stayed any coercive action against Pandey in connection with the case after the hospital filed an intervention application, alleging there was no supply of oxygen cylinders to the hospital by the district administration and “totally false statements had been given about the supply of oxygen to the hospital by the District Magistrate”.
Thereafter, on Monday (May 24), a case was lodged against Pandey at Vibhuti Khand police station for allegedly confining a news channel employee illegally. “He has been accused of loot, illegally confining a news channel representative and extortion. We had received a complaint from news channel employee Nitin Mishra, and lodged an FIR. After that, we arrested Pandey on Monday night,” said Vibhuti Khand SHO Chandra Shekhar Singh on Tuesday morning.
He has been booked under IPC sections 392 (robbery) 342 (wrongful confinement) 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) at the Vibhuti Khand police station.
“We had gone to Allahabad High Court with a complaint against the administration and that is why he has been arrested. This is an effort to intimidate him,” Akhilesh Pandey’s wife Preeti said on Tuesday.
Sun Hospital was among several hospitals where reports of oxygen shortage had been taken note of by the court while hearing a PIL about the Covid situation in the state.
On May 3, when the reported oxygen shortage happened, the 45-bed Sun Hospital in Gomti Nagar had 38 patients. The hospital, which had been declared a Covid facility by the Lucknow administration in the first week of April, said all the patients were on oxygen support at the time.
The FIR, lodged on May 5, came a day after the Allahabad High Court, during a hearing, called deaths due to lack of oxygen a “genocide” and mentioned the notice put up by Sun Hospital. Pandey had denied the allegations of spreading rumours, and had alleged pressure from the administration. Earlier, a probe was conducted by SDM (Sadar) Praful Tripathi, which had found that the hospital had “sufficient” oxygen on May 3 when the notice was put up.
The May 5 FIR was lodged under Sections of the Disaster Management Act and Epidemic Diseases Act and IPC sections 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life).
Pandey’s lawyer Abhinav Nath Tripathi said he is writing a letter to Allahabad High Court Chief Justice seeking relief in the matter. “He has been arrested as the administration is angry with him. Some person from a TV channel came asking for advertisements from the hospital. He later pulled my client by the collar and beat him. In self-defence, my client pushed him and slapped him a few times and now the police have arrested him. Now, they are digging up old cases against him too. It is all part of a conspiracy. We are applying for bail and hoping for relief from the high court,” said the lawyer.
He further alleged that the police had asked for the CCTV footage and deleted the footage from the drive submitted by the hospital. “They took the drive saying it was needed for probe. Now they have deleted the footage of the altercation,” said Tripathi.
He also said that though a complaint was submitted by Pandey against Mishra, police refused to lodge a case against him. “They have arrested my client, but have not even lodged a case against the opposite party,” said the lawyer.
Lucknow police Commissioner D K Thakur said the allegation regarding the arrest being vindictive is false. “We have no issue with him. If a person is going to your hospital, why are you beating him in the hospital?” said Thakur.
Asked about why an FIR was not lodged on Pandey’s complaint, the Commissioner said, “It is not necessary that an FIR is lodged on each complaint. We probe into who is the aggressor and whose fault it is. There are several aspects we look into. If he feels the local police station is not doing a fair probe, he can get it checked by higher officers.”
Regarding the CCTV footage being deleted, Thakur said, “This is not in my knowledge but he can lodge a complaint about this and we will investigate this as well.”