Private practice by government doctors does not amount to corruption or a crime, the SC has ruled.
Quashing corruption cases against two government doctors from Punjab, a bench of justice Markandey Katju and justice Gyan Sudha Mishra said the government doctors engaged in private practice cannot be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) or other penal laws.
At the most, they can be proceeded with for departmental proceedings under relevant service rules, the bench said, adding PCA of Section 168 of the Indian Penal Code that prohibited government officials from being engaged in unlawful trade could not be invoked against such doctors. The ruling benefits lakhs of government doctors, many of whom, have been facing prosecution for engaging in private practice.
This could potentially encourage more government doctors to resort to private practice, as they could not be prosecuted. However, departmental proceedings can be initiated against such government doctors, if the service rules governing them prohibited it.
Dr Rajinder Singh Chawla and Dr Kanwarjit Singh Kakkar were booked by Ludhiana Vigilance in 2003 under Sections 13(1)(d),13(2)of the PCA and Section 168 IPC on the basis of a complaint by one Raman Kumar who alleged the duo engaged in private practice charging R100 as fees from patients. The Punjab and Haryana HC refused to quash the FIR.
Describing corruption as “acceptance or demand of illegal gratification for doing an official act”, the SC said: “the demand/receipt of fee while doing private practice by itself cannot be held to be an illegal gratification as the same obviously is the amount charged towards professional remuneration.