The Bombay high court on Tuesday slammed resident doctors who have resorted to a strike since Monday to protest the recent attacks on their colleagues. It also granted liberty to hospital managements where the resident doctors are employed to take action against those who have on strike.
“You are not fit to be doctors,” said the division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and justice Girish Kulkarni. “You are fit to be an ordinary factory worker if you insist that you will not resume work until your demands are fulfilled,” the bench said.
The comment came after lawyer representing the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) contended that no security has been provided to doctors, although repeated orders have been passed by this court. Claiming that the resident doctors have not resorted to a strike, but have legitimately filed for leave with their respective higher authorities, the lawyer further contended that the demands of resident doctors have not been met, although assurances have been given in that regard to the court, and therefore resident doctors cannot continue to work in an atmosphere of fear.
“Doctors cannot go on mass leave or resort to tactics like ‘go slow’,” said the bench, while refusing to take the excuses put forth by the lawyer into consideration. “If other doctors are working in the same hospitals without fear, we don’t understand what the problem with resident doctors is,” said the bench, adding, “Resign if you are not fit to work there and let other doctors take your place.”
The court was hearing a PIL filed by city activist Afak Mandviya stating that resident doctors going on flash strikes has become a regular event because of which great inconvenience is caused to thousands of poor and needy patients. He alleged that resident doctors were resorting to a strike over petty issues and therefore the issue of them going on strike repeatedly should be decided once for all.
Mandviya has also sought strict implementation of provisions of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2011, which came into force in July 2012, provides for penal consequences if those engaged in essential services resort to illegal strike. It provides for imprisonment for the period of 1 year and / or fine of up to Rs2,000 on employees resorting to illegal strike.
The PIL was taken up for hearing after Mandviya’s lawyer, advocate Datta Mane, mentioned it for urgent hearing, claiming that 58 people have lost their lives owing to a lack of medical treatment because of the state-wide strike of resident doctors.
Additional government pleader Milind More informed the bench that about 4,500 resident doctors across Maharashtra have resorted to strike, after a resident doctor was badly assaulted at Sion Hospital by relatives of a patient who died in the hospital. They claim recently five such incidents of assault and threats to doctors have taken place in the past two days. More added that nine people have been arrested in connection with the assault on resident doctor at Sion hospital.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) lawyer, advocate Suresh Pakle, said the civic body has taken adequate precautions to protect resident doctors, and the incident at Sion Hospital was an outburst without reason. He clarified that the deceased patient, who was on dialysis, had taken discharge against the advice of doctors and she was brought back to the hospital in critical condition, after spending about a month without any treatment.
The bench reacted saying it is not that doctors do not commit mistakes, but a patient may die of several reasons and in every case it cannot be the doctor’s negligence, and therefore relatives of patients cannot go on ransacking hospital and assaulting doctors like this.
The court has now posted Mandviya’s PIL for further hearing on Wednesday.