Encephalitis deaths: Harsh Vardhan, Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey face inquiry after Muzaffarpur CJM order

The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) court of Muzaffarpur Suryakant Tiwari has ordered an investigation against Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan as well as the Health Minister of Bihar Mangal Pandey in a case of negligence registered against them in connection with deaths of children in Muzaffarpur due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

So far, at least 129 children have died of brain fever in Muzaffarpur. According to the latest reports, the toll at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) has touched 109, and 20 children died at Kejriwal hospital in the district due to the vector-borne disease.

 Encephalitis deaths: Harsh Vardhan, Bihar health minister Mangal Pandey face inquiry after Muzaffarpur CJM order

File image of a child suffering from encephalitis. Reuters

Social activist Tamanna Hashmi had filed the case in the Muzaffarpur CJM's court on 17 June. The petition accused Vardhan and Pandey of failing to fulfill their duties to control the outbreak of encephalitis in Bihar. The plea also said that neither had done anything to create awareness about the disease and sensitise people in the affected areas even though over a 100 children had died of encephalitis and it is a recurring problem in the state.

Hashmi filed the case against the two health ministers under Sections 323, 308 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code.

On 16 June, Vardhan, along with Pandey and Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey, had visited the state-owned SKMCH in Muzaffarpur, where a majority of the deaths due to encephalitis have been reported.

"I assure the people of the area, especially the affected families, that the government will extend all possible help and measures to the state government," Vardhan had said.

The CJM's order came on the same day the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Bihar government, seeking a detailed explanation on the death of nearly 130 children in Muzaffarpur district due to encephalitis. It also issued a notice to the Centre and the governments of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, asking them to file affidavits within seven days on the adequacy of medical facilities, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the state.

Updated Date: Jun 24, 2019 15:41:00 IST