Substandard N9-masks Case: Senior medical officer granted interim bail on medical ground

The senior medical officer M Dinesh was bailed out by furnishing a PR bond Rs 1 lakh with one surety of the like amount.

The senior medical officer of the state health directorate, an accused in the procurement of substandard medical merchandise and who had also been sent to police custody is now undergoing treatment at the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS). On Friday, the Session Judge (PC Act) granted interim bail to him on medical grounds for enabling him to undergo proper medical treatment for a period of two months.

The senior medical officer M Dinesh was bailed out by furnishing a PR bond Rs 1 lakh with one surety of the like amount. The court directed the accused person to co-operate with the investigation, appear before the investigating authority or court when directed to do so. He should not influence any prosecution witnessed and should not commit any similar offence while on bail. The accused was also not allowed to leave Manipur without prior permission of the court. He will surrender before the court on September 11 with medical papers showing his treatment.

On Friday, the accused was produced before the court in an ambulance with medical support from ICCU, RIMS with a prayer for judicial custody remand till July 24. However, the bail application filed by the accused was also moved by the counsel of the accused. An OC of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption PS submitted a separate report about hospitalisation of the accused in ICCU ward.

During investigation, it was revealed that in the early part of March 2020, the accused person was entrusted by the higher authorities to contact the firms which would be able to supply the Medical Protective Gear including N9-Masks and PPEs. Accordingly, he contacted one Rahul Jain, proprietor of MS Progressive Enterprises, Guwahati, one of the suppliers of director of health services, Manipur and State Health Mission. Jain assured supply of the items in the shortest period. Subsequently, when the same was put up to higher authorities, it was decided that tender will be awarded to Rahul Jan, if he agreed to pay 12% of the total bill amount of the supplied items as a cut/commission for the supply to be made. The accused then asked Rahul Jain to submit Rate Quotation Tender documents in r/o by at least four firms.

Accordingly, the accused collected the Rate Quotations/Tender documents on March 12, for emergency procurement of the items by Rahul Jain through one Indiver (Representative of M/S Blue Sky, Guwahati) in the name of 4(four) firms namely (i) M/S Blue Sky Services, Guwahati (ii) M/S Mahabir Pharma & Surgical, Guwahati (iii) M/S Plastisurge Industries Pvt. Ltd., Amravati & (iv) M/S Patni Pharmaceuticals, Guwahati before issuing of NIT on March 13 by director Health Services, Manipur. The Rate Quotations/Tender documents were addressed to the accused person i.e. Sr. Medical Officer, Central Medical Store, Director of Health Services, Manipur rather than to the Director of Health Services, Manipur.

Accordingly, tender documents were opened on March 16 by a Limited Tender Opening Committee. The Committee recommendation for M/S Blue Sky Services, Guwahati as the lowest bidder (LI) was accepted by the proceeding of DTC held on March 17, 2020. Further, it has been revealed that the accused person on the advice of the higher authorities of NHM, Manipur including the concerned Minister, had played a key role in the procurement of medical protective gears on behalf of State Health Society, NHM, Manipur before any administrative decision was taken and issuing supply orders from various firms including N-95 Masks suspected to be of substandard quality allocated to District Hospital, Churachandpur. Further, it is also revealed that 200 numbers of N- 95 Masks suspected to be of substandard quality were allocated to District Hospital, Churachandpur supplied by one M/S FAMA Marketing, Guwahati.

During police remand, the accused person was interrogated further and on his interrogation, it was revealed that the statement given by him earlier before the IO of the case are all true and the negotiation made between Rahul Jain on behalf of the proprietor of M/S Blue Sky, Guwahati and the arrested the accused person along with other co-accused people regarding payment of commission to the authorities of health services.

Special PP submitted that the investigation of the case is at the preliminary stage. Since the magnitude of the charge leveled against and risk of the health care of innocent public amid COVID-19 pandemic is of serious social concern, a thorough investigation is highly required to find out the identities and the extent of involvement of the other co-accused who are yet to be arrested and to seized all incriminating documents which is crucial evidence to prove charge thereby praying judicial remand.

However, the counsel of the accused submitted that the accused is working as a Senior Medical Officer of Store, Directorate of Health Services, and government of Manipur. Due to the current pandemic of Covid-19, there is a huge shortage of face masks, hand sanitizers, personal protective equipment (PPE) etc. As such, the accused/petitioner in consultation with the officials of the department i.e. the Director of Health, Commissioner of Health as well as the concerned Minister made an emergency procurement of masks, hand sanitizers, personal protective equipment (PPE) etc. for distribution to the different Districts and Departments.

As such, the limited tender dated March 13 was opened on March 16. The tender was given approval by additional secretary (health and family welfare) on March 17. The technical committee approved the items on April 19. The accused had nothing to do with the allegation and he has not gained anything from the whole incident and thus no offence is made out against him, it was argued.

First Published: July 10, 2020, 11:26 p.m.