As India celebrates its female Olympic medalists, did you know their Medical Officer at Rio was once accused of sex determination?

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As India celebrates its female Olympic medalists, did you know their Medical Officer at Rio was once accused of sex determination?

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SportsCafe Desk

08/24/2016

Indian Olympic contingent’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pawandeep Singh Kohli’s clinic in New Delhi was raided by the Chief District Medical Officer in 2006 after a channel’s sting operation accused Kohli of communicating the sex of the foetus to a pregnant woman. Here is the full story.

Pages 152-154 of the Public Health Foundation of India's (an autonomous body launched by the Prime Minister) report on Implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act In India, published in 2010, are dedicated to one case - Dr. (Mrs. Shashi Mehta) CDMO and Appropriate Authority under the Act Vs. Dr. Pawandeep Singh Kohli.

In this case, the accused, Dr. Pawandeep Singh Kohli, was alleged to have communicated the sex of the foetus to a pregnant woman.

The facts of the case as set out in the report are as follows:

A sting operation was conducted in 2006 by a television channel at the accused‘s clinic i.e. Kohli Imaging & Diagnostic Centre, East of Kailash, New Delhi. The channel alleged that the accused had conducted a pre-natal sex determination test and conveyed sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman. Based on this sting operation, the Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) of South District, New Delhi, conducted a search and seizure operation at the accused‘s centre. During this operation, they suspended the registration of the centre.

Scrutiny of the clinic's records showed several inconsistencies, and the CDMO appeared before the court and filed the complaint. But, the trial court closed the pre-charge evidence because the CDMO was given several chances to conclude the pre-charge evidence but to no effect.

However, a Revision Petition was filed in 2008 by the Appropriate Authority. The Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) held that the earlier discharging of the accused has resulted in serious miscarriage of justice.

The ASJ also noted that the CD of the sting operation could have been played and observations taken on record. The television channel which carried the alleged sting operation could have been summoned to know the details of the patient involved.

He noted that dismissal of the case against Dr. Kohli, in the given circumstances was wrong and illegal, and it is accordingly liable to set aside.

That was as far as we could gather from the report which had used the above case study as an example of how difficult it is to prosecute cases of sex determination under the current legal framework and why Government agencies need to be more thorough while dealing with these cases. No further information relating to the case is publicly available.

However, a Dr. Pawandeep Singh Kohli has shot into prominence in the past few days. He is the Medical Officer of the Indian Contingent at Rio and has come under sharp criticism for a multitude of reasons.

Before we delve into those, we ascertained through a quick phone to the Kohli Imaging & Diagnostic Centre that it was indeed the same Dr. Kohli. Dr. Kohli, the staff said, will return only around August 23 since he was accompanying the Indian team at Rio.

Dr. Kohli is a radiologist – a medical specialist who conducts or diagnoses through imaging techniques – X-ray, Ultrasound, CT scans, and MRIs. Understandably, questions have risen about why he was selected to the post despite not being a Sports Medicine specialist. The Olympic athletes soon complained that the only treatment Dr. Kohli gives for all cases of injury is Combiflam, reported the Indian Express.

Interestingly, it has emerged that the second doctor accompanying the contingent, Dr. Negi, is also a radiologist. No offence to Radiologists - only the cream of the doctors who pass out in India can take the Radiology seats, but having a Radiologist treat sports injuries is like going to a Cardiologist to get your toothache treated. Granted he is highly qualified, but just not in what you are getting treated for.

Support for Dr. Kohli has come in from the highest circles. Vice-President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Tarlochan Singh has defended Dr. Kohli's appointment saying, “He is chairman of IOA’s medical commission and held similar positions at the SAFF Games. Besides, he is also a member of Commonwealth Games Medical Commission. He is a genuine doctor,” he stresses. “He has sports medicine qualification from Germany. Plus, he has also been the captain of India’s Polo team,” reported Indian Express.

Tarlochan also lashed out at those pointing their fingers and said that his “son is not an illiterate”. Yes. Dr. Kohli is the son of the VP of the IOA, which has quite understandably brought out questions of Conflict of Interest. Interestingly, Tarlochan Singh, also a Rajya Sabha member, was the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities and a member of the National Human Rights Commission from 2003 to 2006, until just before the accusations on Dr. Kohli surfaced.

Tarlochan Singh, interestingly, was seriously concerned about the low sex ratio in the Sikh community in 2004 when he called an urgent meeting of Sikh leaders to declare, "this disturbing trend should be checked promptly,” reported sikhwomen.com. However, in 2006, a few months after the closure of his son's clinic, Tarlochan had told a Parliamentary meeting that family members and pregnant women should be held responsible for female foeticide, taking the onus away from doctors, reported the Telegraph in 2006.

Even more interestingly, Dr. Negi, the other radiologist, has also come under the Conflict of Interest scanner after it came to light that he is a distant cousin and close friend of IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta, reported Indian Express.

Tarlochan Singh refused to, however, comment on the decision to appoint his son as the Medical Officer and said, “Why IOA has taken a radiologist is something the federation’s president or secretary can answer since they take the decisions.”

We can only hope the President of IOA, N. Ramachandran (brother of N Srinivasan, ex-BCCI President and ex-CSK owner) will soon put these muddies waters to rest. However, the underlying question that goes unanswered is this – How long will we, as a nation, wallow in our hypocrisy celebrating our women athletes when they suddenly win medals before we silently slink back into our sexist shells while such men rule our nation's sports at the highest levels.

Disclaimer:This article does not express the views or opinions of the writer or Sportcafe.in. We at Sportscafe.in merely seek to aggregate publicly available information (including views that have been expressed) in relation to/ connected with this matter in one place for the convenience of the reader and have duly cited the sources from where information has been extracted. We have not conducted any investigation with respect to the facts stated herein and accordingly, we disclaim all liabilities and warranties (whether express or implied) with respect to the accuracy of information cited from third party sources.

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