A division bench of acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala passed the order on a public interest litigation filed by lawyer Girish Das, seeking a CBI probe. "The present case is an exceptional one where in the history (of our country) 23 innocent children have been infected by HIV," the bench said.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the probe by the state police, the judges said, "The way state agency has conducted investigation, we are compelled to exercise our power to direct the investigation to the CBI for the credibility of the probe."
The court directed the CBI to take over the investigation immediately and asked IPS officer Shobha Bhutada, who had conducted the investigations on high court's earlier order, to hand over all the related documents to the central agency. The court would hear the case again after four weeks to check on the progress.
Last September, 23 children, all suffering from thalassemia, were found to be HIV positive, after they had received blood transfusion at the civil hospital, Junagadh. Thalassmic patients need regular blood transfusions.
The parents alleged that the doctors from the hospital and officials of Sarvodaya Blood Bank, run by the trust headed by local Bharatiya Janata Party member of Legislative Assembly Mahenra Mashru, were responsible for the children getting contaminated blood.
Two of the children subsequently died. As police refused to register the FIR, parents approached the high court. The court ordered a probe by an IPS officer. In the meanwhile, advocate Das too filed his PIL.
Suspecting attempt by high-ranking officials to influence the police investigation, the judges noted that Sarvodaya Blood Bank continues to operate from hospital premises even when it doesn't have a licence, and (when) FIR was registered against it too.
Investigating officer Shobha Bhutada seemed to be in a hurry to get rid of the investigation after she was promoted as the superintendent of police, the court remarked.
The court also noted that complainant had alleged that the blood bank had collected "lakhs of rupees", but the FIR did not mention it. The judges said the CBI, if necessary, could modify the FIR.