Age verification certificates of at least 11 state-level athletes in Maharashtra were issued when the doctor authorised to sign them was on vacation, information obtained through the Right to Information (RTI) Act has revealed.
To maintain transparency in the process of certifying athletes and to ensure that there is no malpractice or age fraud in sporting events, the ministry authorised SAI-designated centres (government hospitals) to issue age certificates after conducting a battery of tests. Going by the RTI query, this system clearly isn’t working.
The forensic doctor of LTMG Sion hospital — one of the two Sports Authority of India (SAI) designated centres — was not on duty when the certificates were handed over last October. DNA has copies of the certificates and the response to the RTI query.
As per the RTI reply, Dr Rajesh Dhere, associate professor in forensic medicine at LTMG Sion hospital who issued the age verification certificates, was on leave from October 15 to October 20, 2012. Surprisingly, the certificates bear his signature even on photo verifications, with the dates coinciding with his vacation period.
Dr Dhere said his father had died during this period. “It was on the insistence of SAI that it happened. The athletes had to attend a state-level competition in four days and I am the only expert to give authority,” he said. He added that he went to the hospital while on leave and signed the documents. “My colleague did the age verification job,” he admitted. “I came and signed the documents... I did this for the benefit of the children.”
However, the photo authentication of the athletes also bears Dhere’s signatures, though he never saw them.
Refuting Dr Dhere’s claim about the urgency, Dr Harish Pathak, professor and head of the forensic department at KEM Hospital, said SAI could have easily approached the other SAI-authorised centre. “He can’t say it was for the career of the athletes. Even KEM hospital is authorised for age verification certificates. We keep issuing certificates. If SAI was in a hurry, they should have come to us,” said Dr Pathak.
Dr Suleman Merchant, dean of LTMG Sion hospital, refused to comment without looking into the issue.
Dr Shailesh Mohite, professor and head of forensic department at BYL Nair Hospital, said, “Signing a crucial document while on leave is not correct. Verifying the photo without seeing the person amounts to fraud.”
Another senior doctor who holds a key position in the BMC hospitals’ administration wing said, “It is very surprising and we need to investigate it. One can’t sign an important paper while on leave.”