On 19 May, a 22-year-old resident of Patna filed a police complaint accusing three staff members of the city’s Paras HMRI Hospital of sexually assaulting her 45-year-old mother, a COVID-19 patient who was admitted in the intensive care unit. The mother was pronounced dead that day. She had been admitted into the hospital’s ICU just four days earlier, and according to the complaint, she told her daughter about the assault on 17 May, when she visited her mother at the hospital and found her hands tied to the bed. The 22-year-old stated in her complaint that the hospital authorities denied the allegations when she confronted them. The mother was cremated on 19 May without a post-mortem examination because she was a COVID-19 patient.
The hospital administration has denied the allegations, but did not respond to detailed queries about the case. The police have registered a first-information report based on the complaint, but despite the grave allegations of sexual assault, the FIR records an offence of sexual harassment. “We are interrogating hospital employees,” Ramashankar Singh, the station-house officer of Patna’s Shastri Nagar police station, told me on 27 May. “Case is under investigation so I can't disclose anything about suspects.”
In the complaint, the 22-year-old stated that her mother had tested positive and was under home quarantine when her oxygen began to drop. At around 7 am on 15 May, the 45-year-old was admitted at Paras Hospital after her oxygen levels dropped to 89, the complaint noted. It said that the hospital admitted her into the ICU immediately. The daughter stated in the complaint, “On 15/5/21 and 16/5/21, during the meeting hour from 4–5 pm, I had personally gone to meet my mother and her health was completely fine then. Her oxygen level was between 94–96.” It is unclear why a patient with relatively stable oxygen readings had been admitted in the ICU at all.
“At 10 in the morning on the next day on 17/5/21,” the daughter’s complaint continued, “I received a call from Paras hospital saying, ‘Your signature is needed for some papers, your mother’s condition is not good.’” She said that she reached the hospital by around 11 am. “When I went to the ICU to meet my mother, her hands and chest were tied to the bed,” the complaint stated. The 22-year-old said that when she asked what had happened, her mother said, “Teen logo ne mere sath galat chedkhani kiya hai”—Three people have molested me. In the complaint, the word “chedkhani”—meaning molestation—has been scribbled on top of the word “galat,” evidently added after the rest of the line.
The mother then told her daughter that all three were staff members of the hospital, and even pointed to one man in the hospital and identified him as one of the three who had assaulted her, according to the complaint. The daughter added that her mother also accused an uncle of one of the nurses on duty the previous evening of being involved in the crime. Since the hospital and the police have not responded to questions, it is still unclear who these men were and whether they have been interrogated in relation to the incident.