Directing resident doctors of government-run hospitals who have gone on strike since Monday to report to work immediately or face action, the Bombay High Court said such doctors “should resign” if they feared for their safety.
Over 4,000 doctors have been on ‘casual leave’ to protest recent incidents, including in the Dhule Civil Hospital and Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital in Mumbai, where patients’ relatives had attacked doctors. The High Court held that such action reflected “public anarchy.”
The court directed the hospital management to take action in accordance with law against such doctors including contempt action as they were disobeying earlier court undertakings where they had said they would not go on strike in such situations.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni were hearing a public interest litigation filed by social activist Afak Mandaviya seeking that doctors be restrained from going on strike.
Meanwhile, the court also asked the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) to clarify its position stating that they had not called for any such strike. “The association has said that they have not given any call for strike. In case members do not comply and report back for duty the respective managements will be at liberty to take action as per law including contempt action,” said the High Court.
The lawyer appearing for the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors said that doctors were not on strike but were afraid to enter the hospitals. “We have told them not to go on strike. They have given proper application seeking leave. We have, however, told them not to go on leave,” he said.
“Let them resign from their jobs or let the hospitals terminate their services. If regular doctors are working, then what is the fear? They are not fit to work then. Basically they want salary and safety of their jobs,” said Chief Justice Chellur.
“If you compare yourself with ordinary workmen then you are a shame on your profession. How can doctors talk like this? They can’t say we won’t go to work if you don’t provide us security,” pointed out the Bench.
In earlier hearings in the PIL, MARD had assured the court that henceforth it would not give a strike call or go on strike anywhere in the state and would only hold peaceful demonstrations to voice their grievances.
“People are ransacking hospitals, harming doctors what will anyone gain from it? Life will not come back. This is public anarchy,” said the Chief Justice.
Mandaviya’s lawyer Datta Mane informed the court that around 58 people had died during the resident doctor’s strike. The court, however, said other permanent staff doctors and nurses were there to attend to patients.
“Not all deaths can be due to negligence. There can be some complication or allergy, or hospital staff may not be attending to a patient. But every case cannot be due to negligence. It is not right for the victims to take such steps,” said the High Court.
The Bench also questioned the state government what protection was being provided to the doctors according to their earlier undertaking. The government pleader Milind More said police protection was being given and other steps had also been taken by them to secure hospitals. MARD, however, disagreed with this.
The court was further informed that hospitals were working at 60 percent below capacity as a result of this strike. MARD has been asked to be present when the court takes up the matter on Wednesday.
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