The Chhattisgarh High Court has let off Dr RK Gupta, accused of conducting a botched sterilisation camp in Bilaspur in November 2014, on technical grounds. The court noted that the investigators did not have the necessary sanction from the state government required to prosecute a public servant. The hearing took place on February 15.

The court said even though cognisance of the matter was taken after Dr Gupta was suspended, a sanction from the government would still be required. “In the absence of obtaining prior sanction, the entire prosecution case becomes ab initio, void and becomes unsustainable,” it said.

The bench said that if the court proceeded according to the prosecution in the case, it would amount to the “abuse of the process of the law”. It further said the respondents are free to take the case further and that the court did not have any opinion on the merits of the case. “The prosecution case was not sustainable on the preliminary objection itself and the merits of the case is still left open to be considered and adjudicated upon at a subsequent appropriate stage if the situation so arises,” the court said.

Colin Gonsalves, a lawyer appearing in the case, said they will challenge the decision. “Withholding the sanction means the state government is supporting the doctor,” Gonsalves told The Hindu. He said any of the women affected could also go to the high court and file a petition to get the sanction.

On November 8, Gupta and one assistant had allegedly performed more than 80 sterilisation surgeries on women in a span of 90 minutes at a free family planning camp at a private hospital in Bilaspur. Within 24 hours of the surgeries, many of the women began complaining of abdominal pain and vomiting. As many as 13 women had died and 65 others were impaired.

Gupta was accused of using the same gloves and syringes on all 83 women and was arrested a month after the incident. However, he was granted bail by the High Court.