Although sentenced to jail, Prithvi Malla has been spending his days in the hospitalMalla, accused of killing a woman while drunk driving, has been at Chirayu Hospital for over a month on ailments that doctors say should not require a long hospitalisation.
On January 8, the Kathmandu District Court issued an order mandating Prithvi Malla, accused of hitting and killing a woman with his car while under the influence, to be held in Dillibazar Prison until the final verdict. But Malla barely spent any time in jail, as he was admitted to hospital almost immediately.
“While taking Malla into custody, he suddenly pretended to be sick and asked to be taken to hospital,” said Purushottam Thapaliya, an officer at the Dillibajar prison.
According to Thapaliya, Malla had asked specifically to be taken to the Basundhara-based Chirayu Hospital, the same hospital where Naresh Thapa, younger brother of Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, was placed after his arrest by the Nepal Police’s Central Investigation Bureau in September last year.
“But as per the rule, we took him to a government hospital, which was Bir Hospital,” said Thapaliya. “Bir Hospital then referred him to Chirayu on Malla’s request and he has been in the hospital ever since.”
Twenty-one-year-old Malla was taken into custody after causing the death of 38-year-old Lila Devkota in a drunk-driving accident in Budhanilkantha on December 14. Malla has been accused of vehicular homicide.
“We have sent letters two times and contacted the hospital multiple times, but the hospital is not ready to discharge him and keeps providing various excuses to keep him there,” said Jailor Arun Pokhrel of Dillibazar Prison.
The hospital has provided the prison with Malla’s medical diagnosis, a copy of which was obtained by the Post. Malla has been diagnosed with hypertension, severe depression with adjustment disorder, along with asthma, leading to blood pressure and oxygen saturation problems.
However, doctors unaffiliated to Chirayu Hospital say that it is unlikely that Malla is suffering from all the problems stated in the diagnosis.
“If the patient is truly going through multiple health issues as outlined in the letter, it might take time, but one individual cannot have all these disorders at the same time, all of a sudden,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, chief medical officer at the Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku.
According to Pokhrel, Dillibazar Prison officials showed the letter to the prison doctors, who also said that Malla was not suffering from anything serious and could spend his time in jail. If Malla is truly suffering from hypertension and asthma, it would’ve been evident in earlier medical records, said doctors.
“We are forced to let him stay in the hospital as we need the hospital to release him,” said Pokhrel. “But the hospital keeps finding ways to increase his stay in the hospital by a few days each time.”
But Rabi Khadka, an official at Chirayu Hospital, said that the hospital is not protecting Malla and that they are keeping him at the request of Malla’s doctors.
“Malla is going through multiple issues,” Khadka told the Post. “But it is likely that he will be released within four days.”
Malla is taking advantage of a provision in the law that allows prisoners to remain in hospital on medical grounds. This provision has been abused by high-profile prisoners and prisoners with access to substantial financial resources, say police. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the former Speaker of the House, had been staying in Norvic Hospital ever since he was taken into custody on allegations of attempted rape. Often, the prisoner’s lawyers and the hospital’s doctors facilitate the stay. The lawyers get to keep their clients out of jail while the hospitals, which are generally private, profit from the prisoner’s extended stay.
“If the case is related to the person’s health, there is nothing we can do. We need permission from doctors to take prisoners into custody because if their health is not well, there could be problems in the future,” said Deputy Inspector General Biswaraj Pokharel, chief of the Ranipokhari Metropolitan Police Office.
However, according to jailor Pokhrel, Malla’s case is now creating problems with other prisoners.
“Other prisoners are now blaming us for treating prisoners differently,” he said. “They are now demanding that they too be allowed to stay in hospital for minor ailments.”