• Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Drug admin official couldn't care less

The one who sued toxic medicine makers keeps off court for over two years

Chaitanya Chandra Halder and Emran Hossain
Abul Khair Chy
Abul Khair Chy

He is the man who filed the cases. He is the one who accused three drug companies of making adulterated drugs that allegedly killed scores of children.

Then again, he is the same man who later changed his statement in court and mysteriously defied at least a dozen court orders to appear before it to testify.

Abul Khair Chowdhury is a government official now serving as an assistant director of the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA). Intriguingly, police failed to get hold of him despite summon and arrest orders in the last two years.

Dhaka Drug Court awaits his appearance before it today to testify in two cases Khair filed in 1992 against BCI Bangladesh for producing toxic paracetamol syrup that allegedly killed 76 children.

However, the chances of his appearance remain slim as police have again failed to arrest and produce him before the court. Since April 24, 2013, this is the eighth time that the court has ordered Motijheel police to arrest Khair, as he did not respond to the court summons since July 3, 2012.

Khair filed the cases against BCI Bangladesh on December 3, 1992. From then on, he has been showing dubious indifference to the matter.

Court records show that Khair, then a drug superintendent, never appeared before the court with the evidence, even though the court asked him to do so five times in 1994. This subsequently led to the stay of the case proceedings.

Though the stay was lifted on February 20, 2011, and the court summoned him on five occasions, Khair did not comply with the orders.

Asked why police failed to arrest Khair despite repeated court orders, Motijheel Police Station Officer-in-charge BM Forman Ali said they were trying to arrest him.

Cops there claimed they informed Khair the court orders five times over the phone, as they could not "find" him in his office.

Manik Chandra Roy, an assistant Sub-inspector at the station, told The Daily Star they even visited his office twice a day or more to execute the court orders on two occasions between September and November last year. But he was not there.

Khair's colleague Md Mohsin said he received one of the court summons and had it delivered to Khair.

However, Khair claimed to have received only one summons. Court records show he received the order on October 27, 2012, but did not turn up in court.

Contacted by phone, Khair said he had "more important personal issues" to be taken care of than responding to the court orders. He claimed that he was attending to his ailing wife at a hospital in the capital at that moment.

He got angry when he was again contacted on his other phone. "What is your problem? Didn't I tell you that my wife is ill?" said Khair before he hung up the phone.

Adflame Pharmaceuticals is another company he sued in 1992.

But surprisingly, he spoke in favour of the adulterators in the court on October 20, 2010.

During cross-examination, he claimed to have forgotten the name of the drug manufacturer. He also altered his earlier statement regarding the place from where he had collected the samples of toxic drugs.

In the case statement, he stated that the samples were collected from Dhaka Shishu Hospital. But in the court, he claimed to have collected it from a factory.

Khair's case is only a part of the setbacks that have held back for decades the trials of Adflame Pharmaceuticals, BCI Bangladesh, Rex Pharma and Polychem Laboratories Ltd for manufacturing toxic drug.

Two days after the cases were filed, the DGDA on December 5, 1992, issued a circular stating that the country did not have the facility to detect the presence of diethylene glycol in paracetamol syrup. It is on this ground that the owners of Rex Pharma secured acquittal in 2003.

On October 19, 2011, a report in The Daily Star revealed that documents relating to the tests that found five paracetamol brands containing 10 to 20 percent diethylene glycol had vanished from the DGDA.

The Rex Pharma case documents show the test results were not even produced before the court.

Of the companies, only Adflame has been punished. Dhaka Drug Court awarded 10 years' imprisonment to one owner and two officials of the company on July 22 this year.

Published: 12:02 am Thursday, August 07, 2014

Last modified: 9:05 pm Thursday, August 07, 2014

TAGS: Adulterated Drugs Dhaka Drug Court three drug companies Abul Khair Chowdhury government official

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