11 May 2023 7:59 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court on Thursday observed that it is the lack of protocols and systemic failure that led to the gruesome murder of a 23-yr-old house surgeon who was stabbed multiple times by an injured man brought to the government hospital in a police jeep, in Kottarakkara, Kollam. A Division Bench comprising of Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Kauser Edappagath observed,"As far as...
The Kerala High Court on Thursday observed that it is the lack of protocols and systemic failure that led to the gruesome murder of a 23-yr-old house surgeon who was stabbed multiple times by an injured man brought to the government hospital in a police jeep, in Kottarakkara, Kollam.
A Division Bench comprising of Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Kauser Edappagath observed,
"As far as the incident in question is concerned, there can be little doubt that the killing of a doctor by a person in custody of police, be that as an accused or in any other capacity, points strongly at a systemic failure. The police officers were also ad idem that it is the fundamental duty of any officer to have guarded a citizen even at the cost of their own lives."
The house surgeon on duty, Dr. Vandana Das, was stabbed multiple times by the attacker, Sandeep, who is a school teacher. The attacker was brought to the Kottarakkara Taluk Hospital by the police for treatment of his injuries. While he was being treated, he turned violent and proceeded to stab the victim with dressing room scissors.
The Court said that from the preliminary information received it is clear that Dr. Vandana Das was alone in the Observation Room at a particular point of time, which opportunity was seized by the accused to stab her repeatedly "At 3 AM in the morning, she was there to serve. She was serving the people. The system has failed her, her parents, and us" the Court remarked.
"It is the fundamental obligation of the police force to ensure that hospitals and personnel who manned it are adequately and sufficiently protected on a day to day basis on 24 hour time frame.", the Court said in its order.
The Court directed the Police Department to put in place protocols for the manner in which persons in custody of the police are to be presented for medical check ups. The Court said that the priority must be to protect the doctors, healthcare professionals, students, interns, house surgeons and such others, or else the faith in the system will erode.
"The ADGP (Additional Director General of Police) on his part confirmed that though there are protocols with respect to the manner in which accused and other persons in custody of the police are presented before the medical professionals/hospitals, they are not up to the requirements as of present times and requires to be modified, and offer that submissions in this regard shall be made by the next posting date. We therefore we direct the SPC (State Police Chief) to formulate and evolve sufficient protocols with respect to the manner in which persons in custody - be that accused or otherwise - are to be presented before hospitals or medical professionals as part of criminal justice system or such other."
The Court stated that it is the fundamental duty of the SPC to ensure security is provided to all government hospitals in a manner as legally possible, until necessary protocols for security of government hospitals are placed before the Court and put in place.
The Court was informed that an FIR has been filed in relation to the incident. The Court requested the Police Department to carry on the investigation for the soul of the young doctor who lost her life "We are told that investigation into the death of Dr. Vandana Das is going on, and we direct the SPC to ensure that the investigation is carried on in her name faithfully, truly, and diligently."
Justice Ramachandran expressed anguish at how the system failed the young doctor, who was at the cusp of her career. "Even if a police officer lost his life, a doctor cannot be exposed since a doctor is not expected to face this kind of situation but a police officer is. Are you not like a soldier? The system was wrong. The system was failing. All our systems have become very casual. The police force must be a professional force. That discipline should be there."
While the Court clarified that it will not blame individual policemen for the incident, it stated that it is systemic failure that led to the incident "We are not blaming the police men but the systemic failure which led to the death of a doctor for the first time. Never in Kerala has this been heard of before. We don't know if it has happened elsewhere. So we are in unchartered territory now. We are not blaming individual officers, we are talking of the systemic failure and how to address it."
The ADGP submitted before the Court that the Police Department is working hard to ensure safety of citizens, "There may be lapses, shortcomings and individual lapses. With limited resources we are doing our best." The Court responded that it was not trying to blame the Police, "We are not reflecting on policing per se, we are only talking about the incident."
ADGP agreed with the Court that the Police must spare their lives to protect civilians if necessary. "I can quote many cases from my department alone who have spared their lives for others." the ADGP submitted in Court, to which Justice Ramachandran said "Absolutely right. We have always said our Police force is one of the finest and have said that we sleep well because of you. But what about this incident?"
Significantly, the medical community has gone on strike in light of the incident. While the Court said it understands their fear, it also expressed concern for the patients across the state who will be denied treatment on account of the strike. "This issue has figured a larger issue for the people. Look at the people waiting at hospitals. We cannot turn a blind eye to that either" Justice Ramachandran said.
The Counsel for the Indian Medical Association, Sr. Adv. Gopakumaran Nair submitted before the Court that this was an exceptional situation and that the casualty and labour room have been exempted from the strike. The Court requested the IMA to consider calling off the strike now that the court is seized of the matter and the police is taking swift action. "We are seriously into the matter. We are making police responsible for security of all hospitals. ADGP is fair enough to say there was a systemic failure. They are also taking steps, so why do you want to continue the strike?", Justice Ramachandran stated.
Case Title: Kerala Private Hospitals Association v. Advocate Sabu P. Joseph
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