Andhra Pradesh

Dr Sudhakar case leaves Andhra Pradesh police red-faced. The story so far

On Thursday evening, there was a sense of unease within the top echelons of the Andhra Pradesh establishment. The reason was that the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High court had taken up the case of Dr Sudhakar suo moto and his decision was due on Friday.

Dr Sudhakar, an anaesthetist who worked at Narsipatnam area hospital in Visakhapatnam district had hit the headlines in April when he alleged that government doctors treating Covid-19 patients were not provided N-95 masks and PPE kits and was suspended for his remarks. Subsequently on 17 May, he was taken into custody for creating a nuisance in an inebriated condition by use of excessive force. 

The apprehension was not misplaced. On Friday, the court ordered a CBI probe into allegations into the conduct of the Vizag police officers while arresting Dr Sudhakar. The court took cognizance of a report of the Visakhapatnam district magistrate that stated there were six injury marks on Dr Sudhakar, a fact reportedly glossed over in the government’s report. The court asked the CBI to finish its inquiry within eight weeks. 

What are the facts of the case? 

There is no doubt that the constabulary handling Dr Sudhakar on the road in Vizag went overboard. Senior police officials admit this as well which is why a constable was suspended. The policemen manhandled Dr Sudhakar and allegedly tied up his hands, beat him in full public glare and then dragged into an auto rickshaw before arresting him. In a move that exhibited arrogance of power, the cop was enraged that the doctor did not get up when asked to, without realising that when a person’s hands are tied at the back, it is not possible to get up easily. 

The police version is that Dr Sudhakar was drunk and was removing the traffic cones on the road, obstructing the traffic. The charge is that he removed his shirt himself and abused the police. 

The case got deeply political with the Telugu Desam accusing the YSRCP government of targeting a doctor who had dared to point out the loopholes in Andhra Pradesh’s Covid fight. A PIL was filed by former TDP MLA, V Anitha. 

After his arrest, Dr Sudhakar was sent to the Institute of Mental Health Care in Visakhapatnam where he is under observation and treatment. His condition has been diagnosed as Acute Transient Psychosis and those familiar with the case say he suffers from delusions of both grandeur and persecution. According to sources, several examples of his tall claims, including taking the credit for having written the script of Baahubali, are part of his Psychiatric evaluation report, prepared by senior doctors. 

Because of the outrage over the manner in which Dr Sudhakar was treated by the police, pressure was brought upon the system to act in a fair manner. A magistrate recorded his version in a one-on-one session for two and a half hours. Earlier, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had said the Andhra government’s conduct demoralised the doctor community in India, at a time when they were fighting the Corona pandemic as frontline warriors. What made the conduct of the YSRCP government ironic was that the party president Jaganmohan Reddy’s late father, former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy was a doctor.

Comparisons have also been made to how the Uttar Pradesh government allegedly hounded Dr Kafeel Khan after the deaths of infants at a Gorakhpur hospital in 2017. The court’s decision today is a stinging slap – the Andhra Pradesh police needs to put its house in order. 

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