Is the public information officer of the Goa Medical College and hospital trying to protect someone or hide something in the Cipriano Fernandes’ alleged custodial death case? Despite an order passed by the appellate authority to furnish the information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the PIO has provided information to only a few of the 12 questions asked. On January 19, human rights activist Jowett D’Souza sought detailed information from GMC on Cipriano’s death, including the names of doctors who treated him, his condition when admitted to hospital on the afternoon of January 8, the treatment administered to him, who declared him as dead, details of the postmortem, etc.
Cipriano was declared dead on January 9 at 6.35am. Medical superintendent and PIO Dr Rajan V S Kuncolienkar, on January 27, replied, “In view of Section 8 (1) (h) and (e), the information cannot be given, as informed by Dr Silvano Dias Sapeco, professor and head of forensic department,GMC.” While (e) empowers the authorities to decline information received in a fiduciary (doctor-patient) relationship, (h) pertains to withholding information which would impede the process of investigation. However, if the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information it can direct the PIO to furnish the same.
When D’Souza went in appeal, GMC’s dean and first appellate authority Dr V N Jindal allowed the appeal in an order dated January 31, and directed the PIO to furnish the information within two weeks from the date of the order. However, on February 7, the PIO furnished details of the request for postmortem, postmortem report, provisional cause of death certificate, final opinion on cause of death after receipt of viscera report, histopathology report, etc and added that “the balance information, if any, may be obtained from SDM/concerned police station”. D’Souza said information about Cipriano’s admission and treatment at the hospital; his case papers, etc have not that there appears to be an attempt to protect someone as the PIO has answered only some of the 12 questions asked. “When all the information sought by me is with the GMC and the appellate authority has passed an order to furnish the information, why is the PIO denying me the information and passing the buck onto the SDM?,” questioned D’Souza. He has filed a complaint with the information commission.”