Lucknow: Former principal of the government- run BRD medical college in Gorakhpur Rajiv Mishra and his wife were on Tuesday taken into custody by Uttar Pradesh’s Special Task Force (STF) for questioning in connection with the death of 60 children within a span of 48 hours at the hospital.

According to SSP, Gorakhpur, Anirudh Sidhartha Pankaj, a police team last night also went to the home of Dr Kafeel Khan, the former nodal officer of 100-bed acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) ward in the hospital who was removed after the child deaths, to quiz him but he was not there.

Mishra and his medico wife Purnima Shukla, who are named in an FIR lodged by the UP government, were picked up from Kanpur, where they had reportedly gone to consult a lawyer. “The STF team then left for Gorakhpur to carry out further interrogation there," Pankaj told PTI in Gorakhpur.

Mishra had been suspended as principal of the college on 12 August after the deaths were reported and the same day he resigned owning moral responsibility for the incident, which acquired a political hue with the government drawing flak from the opposition.

Also read: Uttar Pradesh’s child death crisis

As leaders from the Congress and the Samajwadi Party rushed there to make an “on-the-spot assessment", Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath retorted saying that Gorakhpur should not be made a “picnic spot". The state government also maintained that the deaths were not caused due to shortage of oxygen but various diseases.

The doctor couple was named in the FIR lodged by the state government after a report by Chief Secretary Rajive Kumar who had headed a probe team that went into the causes behind the deaths earlier this month. The STF official said they were being quizzed but declined to share further details. Asked whether the duo had been arrested or detained, he said legal formalities will be carried out by the Gorakhpur police. On Dr Kafeel Khan, the SSP said, “Police reached his residence for questioning.

However, he was not there. His family members have been told to support the police, so that they do not face any legal action during investgation." Recommendations were made by the probe team to initiate criminal action against Dr Khan for allegedly concealing facts and filing false affidavit and working against the rules of the Indian Medical Council.

However, a group of doctors at AIIMS-Delhi had come out in his support, alleging that he was being made a scapegoat by the authorities. The FIR was lodged in the Hazratganj police station here against nine persons, including the former principal, in connection with the deaths of children there due to alleged lack of oxygen supply. The case was transferred to Gorakhpur.

The proprietors of M/s Pushpa Sales, the company responsible for the supply of liquid oxygen, have also been named in the FIR lodged by Director General, Medical Education, KK Gupta. Cases were registered under various sections of the IPC, Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Medical Council Act against Dr Rajiv Mishra, Dr Purnima Shukla, Dr Kafeel Khan, Dr Satish, Chief Pharmacist Gajanan Jaiswal, Accountant Sudhir Pandey, Assistant Clerk, Uday Pratap Sharma of Pushpa Sales and Manish Bhandari.

The IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide. The official report by the chief secretary, however, denied lack of oxygen as the cause of death. Adityanath had formed the committee on 12 August, a day after the deaths of children were reported at the hospital. The state government has also shunted out additional chief secretary medical education Anita Bhatnagar Jain.

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