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Delhi High Court disposes of plea against doctors’ strikes

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The Delhi High Court on Friday disposed of a plea challenging the practice of doctors resorting to frequent strikes to settle their personal scores against the government or hospital authorities, while observing that the concerned State Medical Councils may be approached to take appropriate action in respect of specific complaints about patients who had suffered on account of strike by doctors at hospitals. 

The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta, while dealing with a plea alleging doctors’ strike to be morally, ethically and legally wrong for it disrupts regular hospital services bringing endless pain, suffering and death to defenseless patients, expressed disinclination to issue notice in the matter. 

The Bench noted that the instant petition is based only upon news reports without giving instances of strikes taking place in a given hospital; actual patients suffering on account of the strike; the nature of suffering undergone by the patients and the loss of life, if any, resulting therefrom.

The Bench underscored thus: “There can be no doubt that strikes by doctors or for that matter any other professional, who is rendering services to the public at large, should not be resorted to as such strikes gravely affect the recipients of the services offered. In the case of doctors, the impact of any such strike would be grave and serious as it may put the life and health of patients in jeopardy.” 

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

The instant petition has been filed through Advocate Sachin Jain by NGO People for Better Treatment, which claims to be devoted to promotion of a better healthcare delivery system and helping the victims of medical negligence in India.

The plea seeks a direction for suitable disciplinary action against the erring doctors who were involved in the doctors’ strike and to adopt a stringent and necessary pre-emptive measures for prevention of doctors’ strike in the future.
In addition, the plea prays for a direction to widely publicize that doctors may not resort to strike under any condition.
The petition has highlighted that two petitions were moved before the Apex Court by the NGO wherein orders were passed in 2012 and 2014 respectively. In 2012, the Top Court, holding that strike by doctors may amount to negligence warranting action for misconduct, directed the NGO to move the Ministry of Health against doctors involved in the strike.

The second petition was disposed of by the Apex Court in 2014, while observing that in case of “doctors’ strike”, the appropriate authority i.e., the Medical Council of India and other State Medical Councils should be approached to take suitable disciplinary action against such striking doctors.

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