It Happens

The Kidney Is Innocent

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The Kerala High Court rules that a criminal’s kidney can be donated

Kiranlal Kumar is 15 years old and that is a really young age to be staring death in its face. He is suffering from renal failure and survives on dialysis. The only alternative is a kidney transplant and his father Kishor Kumar did get a donor in G Sundaran, a long-time colleague whom he knew for 15 years. And it was at this stage that they encountered a strange obstacle. The authorisation committee for renal transplantation under the state’s Department of Health and Family Welfare is the entity that has to give clearance to kidney transplants. It rejected Kiranlal’s application because Sundaran had been convicted in a criminal case.

The law exists to check kidney sale rackets, but Sundaran’s case had nothing to do with organ donations. He had been convicted for possession of illegal liquor and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. The appeal is now pending in the apex court. But all that was not of use to Kiranlal. As per the Transplantation of Human Organs Rules, 1995, one cannot donate an organ if s/he is a ‘known person with a criminal record’.

Kishor Lal moved a petition in the High Court against the decision. And recently the court asked what should have been asked a long time ago: what is the connection between one’s kidney and the crime s/he did. The court asked a number of other questions too. The criminal clause is not applicable to near relatives donating kidneys. The judgment states, ‘In what way the filial relationship of the recipient and the donor with reference to the criminal background or drug addiction does attain significance or importance is not clearly discernible.’ The court also said that being convicted in a single case is not sufficient to stamp somebody as a ‘criminal’.

In any case, it is good news for Kiranlal. The court allowed the transplant to go ahead. Kiranlal goes for surgery on 25 May. “The stringent conditions of organ transplantation have become a curse for patients rather than an effective instrument to check the kidney sale racket. Every year hundreds of people have been dying after getting caught in the tangle of this law,” says advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, the lawyer who appeared in court for Kiranlal.