The Supreme Court, observing that the protesting doctors have already called off their strike in West Bengal and other states, declined an urgent hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on Tuesday which sought safety and security of doctors.
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A vacation bench, comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant, said, “There was no urgency now in the case and it should be listed after the summer break before an appropriate bench.”
However, the petitioner Alok Srivastava insisted the matter needed urgent attention, contending that effective measures have not been taken regarding doctors’ safety and security at government hospitals.
“We are not against doctors’ security but we cannot pass an order on it now,” the court rebutted.
Even though Srivastava persisted on an urgent hearing on the matter and urged the court to issue a notice, the court, however, declined to entertain the matter, stating it cannot pass orders apprehending a situation.
“Tomorrow we pass an order nobody should be murdered?… We only pass orders which could be implemented,” it said.
The court said it was well aware that security of doctors was paramount, but it cannot pass an order at the cost of others.
The counsel representing the Indian Medical Association (IMA) contended that doctors’ safety and security is an extremely important issue, and “we seek a central legislation on this matter, although some states have laws”.
The court replied, “We need a holistic view on the matter” and listed it for regular hearing.
A PIL was filed on June 14 seeking direction for the Centre and the West Bengal government to provide a secure environment for doctors to perform their duties.
A junior doctor at NRS Hospital in Kolkata was attacked on June 10 by relatives of a patient who had died in the hospital, allegedly due to medical negligence, triggering protests by doctors in West Bengal.
On June 14, several doctors boycotted work across the country as a sign of solidarity with their counterparts in West Bengal.
The petition cited media reports of the brutal attack on the junior doctor identified as Paribaha Mukherjee who sustained severe injuries.
The petition cited a study by the IMA, stating that more than 75 per cent of doctors across the country have faced some form of violence. This study concluded that 50 per cent violent incidents took place in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals, and in 70 per cent of the cases, the relatives of the patients were involved.
Srivastava said that the PIL has been filed under Article 32 of the Constitution. He claimed that it was his public duty to move the apex court and seek its urgent intervention to address issues which led to the strike and protests by doctors of various medical colleges and hospitals across India.
The petition sought government-appointed uniformed security personnel at every government hospital in India for the safety and security of the doctors. It also demanded strict action against the perpetrators of the attack on the doctor in West Bengal.
In the aftermath of the Kolkata incident, junior doctors in several states reportedly boycotted work affecting medical services in various parts of the country.
The strike was called off on Monday.