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Doctors' Strike | Can't Initiate Disciplinary Action In Absence Of Actual Events Of Patients' Suffering, Media Reports Not Sufficient: Delhi HC

20 May 2022 1:20 PM GMT
Doctors Strike | Cant Initiate Disciplinary Action In Absence Of Actual Events Of Patients Suffering, Media Reports Not Sufficient: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court today refused to issue orders for initiation of action against doctors alleged to be involved in the November 2021 strike.

Disposing of the public interest litigation filed by a Kolkata based NGO namely 'People for Better Treatment', a Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta observed,

"In our view, before any disciplinary action can be taken, it would be necessity for complainant who must first approach the State Medical Council to make out specific grievance based on actual events since that would be necessary for State Medical Council to initiate disciplinary action against an identified doctor who may have gone on strike,"

The Bench was of the view that Doctors or for that matter any other professional rendering service to public at large should not resort to strikes as such strikes gravely affect the recipients of services offered. In case of doctors, it stated that the impact is more grave and serious as it may put the life in his occupation in jeopardy.

However, at the same time, it clarified that the arguments made by the Petitioner are firstly founded upon news reports and no other material has been produced with regard to "actual instance" of strike taking place in hospital, "actual patients suffering on account of strike", nature of suffering undergone by patients, and loss of life if any resulting therefrom.

In this light, it remarked,

"Reliance placed on mere press reports is not sufficient to take disciplinary action as the body against which action is called for is also not defined and identified."

The PIL sought direction to the National Medical Commission to take action against erring doctors involved in strike, in accordance with the directions issued by the Supreme Court in 2012, for adopting stringent and necessary measures for prevention of doctors' strike in future and to advertise doctors shall not resort to strike else action will be taken against them.

Significantly, the Petitioner had approached the Supreme Court on two occasions. Firstly, in 2006, raising the issue of doctors going on illegal strikes, thereby affecting medical services, leading to denial of treatment. This plea was disposed in May 2012, directing the Petitioner to move the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare with its representation. Liberty was also granted to move an appropriate Court, in case no response was forthcoming.

Thereafter, the Petitioner again approached the Supreme Court in 2012, raising the same grievance with regard to doctors going on strike, leading to enormous pain and suffering to patients and even resulting in deaths of few unfortunate patients.

The Supreme Court disposed of that case in November 2014, stating that being god's agents, doctors should not go on strike. It had however refused to declare doctors strikes as illegal.

In the instant case, the Petitioner sought a declaration that the several instances of strikes by doctors at Delhi, Bangalore, UP, Assam and Indore between November 26, 2021 November 30, 2021 were illegal. The nationwide strike was called by Federation of Resident Doctors' Association, demanding to expedite the NEET PG 2021 counselling as well as admission process.

The High Court however opined that even the order passed by Supreme Court states that in case of strike by doctors, inter alia State Medical Council must be approached to take suitable action and for that, it would be necessary for the Petitioner to provide all relevant particulars.

"Even if State Medical Council were not to act, situation would arise for the National Medical Council to step in and ensure that state council discharges its obligation," it added.

Accordingly, the petition was disposed of with liberty to the complainant to approach the State Medical Council with specific complaints about actual patients suffering on account of national strike in hospital by doctors employed therein.

Case Title: People for Better Treatment v. National Medical Commission

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 478

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