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‘A rare conviction for procedural default’

The conviction of Dr Paresh Sheth by the lower court happens to be a first-ever instance of holding a doctor guilty by a court in Gujarat for procedural default,believe Health Department officials.

Written by Amrita Didyala | Ahmedabad |
February 4, 2009 2:49:32 am

The conviction of Dr Paresh Sheth by the lower court happens to be a first-ever instance of holding a doctor guilty by a court in Gujarat for procedural default,believe Health Department officials.

While the Health Department has registered cases against 148 pathology labs (of the 3,050 registered labs in the state) for conducting illegal sex determination tests,it has filed 79 cases against doctors in the courts. Of these,17 cases have been filed in the HC.

“While in the case of Dr Harshad Thakkar,who was caught in a sting operation carried out by the Health Department in March 2007 and who was booked under the PNDT (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act,the Supreme Court finally adopted a tough stance by ordering a stay on the sale of the machinery seized,” said Dr M S Ranawat,the consulting officer for the Act.

Ranawat said the present judgment was the first in a case,which was not supported by any hard-bound proof. “It was hard to get Dr Thakkar arrested in the case and his conviction is still pending. However,this being the first conviction,it will set an example in the entire country,” said Ranawat.

While the Health Department had earlier caught three doctors — Dr D N Prajapati in Palanpur,Dr Harshad Thakkar in Ahmedabad and Dr Bharat Bhope in Rajkot — red-handed in the sting operations,all the other cases did not have supporting evidence other than records,said Ranawat. In those cases,it was difficult to nail down the doctors,as they had adopted innovative ways to deal with the subject.

“This is one of the first few convictions in the country against a doctor for procedural default and it has come after a very long struggle,” said the Commissioner of Health,Amarjeet Singh.

He said,“The attitude of the judiciary towards the issue has been a cause of delay. Two years ago we held a weeklong seminar with two SC judges to sensitise the judiciary about the issue and explain why it is important to maintain records. And yet,it has taken so long for the first result to come,” said Singh.

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