Minor Errors In Record-Keeping Under PCPNDT Act Can’t Invite Prosecution Against Doctors: Bombay HC [Read Judgment]
The Bombay High Court has ruled that minor procedural errors and inadvertent omissions in maintaining records under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, cannot be regarded as a punishable violation on part of the doctor. The Court also slammed the authorities for instituting the case solely on the basis of Vigilance committee report without investigating the matter in detail.
The Division Bench of Justice A.V. Nirgude and Justice V.L. Achliya observed: “It is nowhere the case of respondent No.2 that she has not maintained the record. The allegations made against the petitioner that certain information, which was to be recorded in the particular manner, has not been recorded. The omissions of a nature like not to mention the mobile number of the patient, her full address, difference in signature of the doctor and other inadvertent mistakes, cannot be termed as a discrepancy or act of inaccuracy amounting to violation of the Sections 4, 5 or 6 or 29 of the PCPNDT Act. The petitioner has offered satisfactory explanation to each and every deficiency in inspection report.”
The court quashed the complaint and stated, “The allegations made are so absurd that no prudent person can ever reach to conclusion that there are sufficient grounds to proceed against the petitioner.”
The petitioner, Dr. Sai Shiradkar, had prayed for quashing the prosecution instituted against her for discrepancies and errors in the record maintained under the Act.
She claimed that she had started a duly registered sonography centre at Suyog Hospital recently. The Regional Vigilance squad inspected the centre on 26.02.2015, and on the basis of its adverse report, the advisory committee decided to suspend the registration of petitioner's sonography centre and initiate prosecution against her. The chief judicial magistrate upheld the accusations.
The court noted that the mentioned discrepancies cannot be termed as committed with intention to violate the provisions of the Act. It cannot be stated that the errors were made with ulterior motive to suppress certain information about the patients or misuse the ultrasonography machine for sex determination.
The court also admonished the appropriate authority notified under the Act for its ‘casual approach’ by invariably filing complaint without proper inquiry or investigation, as is required under u/s 17(4) of PCPNDT Act and ‘due application of mind’ before lodging.
The court stated, “Legal action must follow based upon sufficient material to establish that there was a violation of provisions of the PCPNDT Act and Rules thereunder” and warned that such inadvertent mistakes in maintaining records need to be considered in a proper perspective. The court also stated that such an approach also invites criticism of the Act by the medical fraternity.
The ruling has come as a much-needed relief to radiologists amidst uproar in the state over the issue, as many doctors have been booked under the Act for such lapses and clerical errors in record keeping.
The court observed: “If precautions are taken before lodging prosecution against a person in the field of medical profession, it would help to remove the fear in the mind of medical professionals doing their work with utmost honesty, sincerity and due observance of medical ethics and code of conduct laid down under the PCPNDT Act of being subjected to face unnecessary humiliation, harassment and criminal prosecution.”
Read the Judgment here.