Unlike then, there are well-defined penal provisions to deal with illegal trade in human organs now

The police may have cracked down on illegal trade in kidneys but investigating officers can learn from what happened in the first such reported racket in the State in 1995.

Despite the huge hype then, the seven cases met didn’t even make it to trial as the Karnataka High Court, a full 17 years later in January 2012, discharged all the accused on the ground that there was “no prima case made out against accused persons in respect of any one of the offences alleged.”

Poor labourers

The Commercial Street police had then charged that four doctors — physicians, an anaesthetist and a surgeon — of a reputed hospital and a few middlemen had stolen the kidneys of poor labourers from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka on the pretext of treating them. They were charged under nine provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

However, the Court of Sessions itself in October 2005 had discharged them from the charges of causing grievous hurt, administering drug with the intent to cause hurt, robbery, falsification of accounts and for killing evidence, but had framed charges for criminal conspiracy, theft [of kidney], wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation.

However, the High Court discharged them saying that each patient was paid money and, as tests were conducted on them before the kidney was removed, had held that “it can’t be said that the patients were unaware of the nature of operation” to establish that kidney was stolen from their body by administering drugs. Moreover, the High Court also found from the prosecution records that the patients had given their consent letter before surgery, and concluded that even if a trial was conducted it would a waste of time as all the accused could be acquitted in the light of these documents.

But unlike in 1995, the police are now equipped with some well-defined penal provisions under Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) 1994, which prescribes punishment up to seven years, including for indulging in commercial dealings in human organs, apart from the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

A former State Public Prosecutor pointed out that the Union Government enacted the THOA mid-1994, its provisions could not be employed then as the law was not notified for its implementation in Karnataka in 1995 when the police filed charge sheet.

He, however, said it would be useful for the Ramanagaram police to study the 1995 case before filing the charge sheet in the present case as it would go a long way to help them avoid same errors and plugging possible loopholes.