SC takes police, hospital administration to task over 10-year-old Amal Umer's death in 'encounter'

The Supreme Court on Tuesday took the police and administration of a private hospital in Karachi to task over alleged negligence that led to the death of 10-year-old girl Amal Umer. The minor had lost her life after being hit during an exchange of fire between policemen and robbers during an 'encounter' last month.

The court also formed a two-member committee that would give recommendations for an inquiry into the minor's death.

At the outset of the hearing of the suo motu case, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar regretted that the child had lost her life due to alleged negligence first on the part of Karachi police, and then the administration of National Medical Centre (NMC) in DHA area.

Read: How the system failed us

"Can Amal be brought back?" he lamented, adding that he could not assign the inquiry of the incident to police because he is unhappy with the security force.

Beenish Umer, the mother of the deceased girl, recounted the ordeal they went through after taking their injured daughter to NMC on the night of August 13. She said when she called for an ambulance, she was asked whether they had booking for a bed at Jinnah hospital.

Also, NMC staff did not allow the parents to take with them the ambu bag that was attached to Amal, she said, adding that her daughter died before she could be shifted to another hospital.

She said an inquiry revealed two days later that the bullet that hit Amal had been fired by a policeman, and that it had come from a machine gun.

"Are we living in Kashmir, Afghanistan or Syria?" she wondered.

The CJP then asked the counsel for the child's parents what could be done to prevent similar incidents in the future. He said it needed to be investigated how a policeman opened the fire that led to Amal's death.

The lawyer informed the court that the rules bound only government hospitals to provide emergency treatment to critical patients, and not private medical institutions.

He said NMC is a major hospital in Karachi and it was strange that it did not have ambulances.

The capital city police officer (CCPO) Karachi said Amal's parents had informed him that their daughter was hit by a bullet fired by a policeman when he visited their residence to condole.

"This is police negligence... who opens fire on a crowded street?" remarked Justice Ijazul Ahsan, another member of the bench.

The CCPO claimed one of the suspected robbers was shot dead during the exchange of fire. At this, Amal's father interjected and said there are seven bullet marks on his car.

"[Police] should not have heavy weaponry to control street crimes," observed CJP Nisar.

"You handed machine guns to policemen without training them first," Justice Ahsan said, addressing the CCPO.

The police officer responded by saying, "Our policemen are martyred [during such incidents]". The CJP, however, reminded him that they needed to be trained adequately first.

'You only know how to mint money'

The court asked the NMC administrator why they had asked Amal's parents to take her to another hospital in a critical condition.

The administrator responded that the bullet had pierced the child's head and exited. "Such a wound could not have been treated," he added.

The CJP observed that the hospital could have at least arranged an ambulance to shift the child, telling the official: "You only know how to mint money."

Upon being told that private hospitals usually do not accept cases of critical patients, the Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the Rescue 1122 emergency service functioning in Punjab should be present in all other provinces as well.

The CJP observed that there should be standard operating procedures (SOP) for private hospitals.

"No compensation can bring the child back," he said, and expressed annoyance over the absence of NMC's owner at the hearing.

The bench then formed a committee comprising lawyers Faisal Siddiqui and Umaima, the lawyers representing Amal's parents, to give recommendations about an inquiry into the minor's death.

The court directed the committee to consult the advocate general Sindh and senior lawyers Aitzaz Ahsan and Latif Khosa while formulating their recommendations.

Co-accused arrested

Meanwhile, police claimed to have arrested an accomplice of the robbery suspect who was killed in the crossfire with police the night Amal died.

Khalid, a co-accused in the child's murder case, was arrested by Artillery Maidan police, Additional IG Karachi Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh told Dawn.

A rickshaw, cellphone and a TT pistol were recovered from the suspect, he said.

The teenaged suspect confessed to his involvement in the incident and other crimes, the officer added.

The CJP had taken a notice last week regarding the "irresponsible firing" by the police as well as the "failure of [a] well-known medical hospital to provide emergency medical aid as required by the law". The notice had come days after Amal's mother Beenish Umer's account of the incident appeared in Dawn.

Amal was shot during an alleged crossfire between police and robbers that occurred in Karachi's Defence area last month. Later, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) South Javed Alam Odho admitted that the bullet that killed Amal was fired by a policeman.

After she was shot, Amal's parents, who were in the car with her, took her to NMC where she passed away after being denied medical treatment. According to Beenish, the hospital told the injured girl's parents to take her to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre or Aga Khan Hospital. NMC also refused to arrange an ambulance for Amal, who had suffered a head wound.

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