As many as 16 years after the infamous ‘kidney scam’ rocked Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued a slew of directions for expeditious trial of the accused in two FIRs registered in 2002 and 2003. Meanwhile, the High Court Wednesday acquitted six persons in a related FIR registered for illegal organ transplant. The accused had been convicted in 2013.
While rejecting a petition filed by Dr Parveen Kumar Sareen for a combined trial in the two First Information Reports (FIRs) registered against him and others in September 2002 and February 2003, Justice Gurvinder Singh Gill in the order passed on Tuesday directed the trial court to take up the cases on the same day and also decide them together on the same day.
“In order to implement order of Supreme Court for disposal of the cases within six months, the trial court shall fix the shortest possible dates in the cases and take all possible steps for securing timely presence of prosecution witnesses. An advance schedule of dates be prepared for summoning the witnesses and summons be issued well ahead of dates fixed for summoning them,” the order passed by Justice Gill reads.
Justice Gill has further directed the prosecution and Amritsar SSP to ensure presence of the witnesses on the day the matter is fixed for recording their statements. “The trial court shall coordinate with the District Attorney and Commissioner/SSP concerned for ensuring that the needful is done expeditiously,” the order reads.
The FIR in September 2002 stands registered against 13 accused for the illegal trade of kidneys. Under the larger conspiracy, the naive and underprivileged were convinced to donate their kidney in lieu of some amount after which the organs were sold at a much higher rate to the rich patients, according to the police.
The another FIR had been registered in February 2003 against Sareen and four others – all of them are accused in the September 2002 FIR too – for death of a labourer Sudesh Kumar whose kidney was removed by the doctors at Kakkar Hospital as part of a deal with one patient. However, Kumar was not provided adequate treatment after the organ removal due to which he died.
The Supreme Court in November 2017 had ordered “amalgamation” of the two cases and directed the trial court to decide the cases within six months. On the basis of the Supreme Court order, the accused in February 2018 had sought a fresh single chargesheet in the case. However, the trial court in March 2018 dismissed the plea on the ground that it is an attempt to delay the trial and asserted that charges are different in the two cases.
Senior Counsel Randeep Singh Rai before the High Court had argued that allegations in the second case emanate from the same conspiracy for which the first case stood registered. State had opposed it saying there is a case of death in one of the cases and also 66 witnesses out of 93 cited witnesses have already been examined in one case and 17 witnesses out of cited 21 witnesses have been examined in another case.
Justice Gill in the judgment said that intention of the Supreme Court was only to expedite the trial and a consolidated chargesheet at this stage would mean a fresh trial which had otherwise begun in 2004.
“In fact the presence of some of the prosecution witnesses already examined at this belated stage i.e. after more than 15 years of the occurrence may not even be possible, which would seriously prejudice the case of the prosecution,” reads the judgment.