July 14, 2021 9:45:18 am
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government to effectively implement its 2010 Government Resolution (GR), which provided for the constitution of district-level committees consisting of medical practitioners to look into allegations of criminal negligence against doctors prior to the registration of FIR.
The court also directed the state to give wide publicity to such a resolution, after it submitted that there was no need for ‘special cells’ to deal with the complaints against doctors as the 2010 government decision can be used to examine the complaints against them.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed was hearing PIL filed by Dr. Rajeev Digambar Joshi argued through advocate Nitin Deshpande, pertaining to the safety of doctors across Maharashtra, highlighting instances of assault on medical personnel by the kin of patients.
During the previous hearing, referring to a past Supreme Court decision in the Lalita Kumari case, the bench had asked the state to consider constituting a special cell for conducting a preliminary inquiry into complaints of alleged criminal negligence of doctors resulting in cognizable offences, prior to FIRs being registered.
On Tuesday, advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni representing the state government said that GR dated March 26, 2010 is in force in the state and it provided for the constitution of committees in each of the districts of Maharashtra consisting of doctors. He said that such a committee was required to look into the complaints first before any action is initiated to register an FIR or any complaint is examined by the forums under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
Kumbhakoni submitted, “Such GR may have been dormant, but there can be no doubt that the same is required to be adhered to by all concerned. The Government would make an honest endeavor to implement such a resolution so that doctors are not unnecessarily harassed by the kin of patients if at all the treatment rendered to the patients is not to the liking of the family members.” Kumbhakoni assured that immediate steps shall be taken to widely publish and circulate the said GR for required action and guidance.
The bench observed, “In view of 2010 GR, the need to constitute a special cell may not survive; however, there can be no doubt that wide publicity of the said GR ought to be made so that the police officers as well as various forums under the Consumer Protection Act, prior to initiating action on a complaint received by them, may refer such complaints to the appropriate committee for obtaining report thereon.”
The state government counsel also sought time to consider whether to introduce a new law or to amend the existing Maharashtra Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2010 as he found the draft amendments to be ‘clumsy’
Advocate Deshpande for the petitioner referred to the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Act, 2017 and submitted that the Maharashtra government can consider the same as ‘model legislation’ to introduce adequate safeguards for doctors, patients and their family members.
To which, the bench noted, “We leave it to the wisdom of the Government to consider this aspect of the matter; however, we do hope and trust that an appropriate decision at the appropriate level shall be taken without any delay for the benefit of the members of the public as well as the doctors so that an appropriate forum is constituted where they can voice their respective grievances and obtain redress.”
Seeking the state’s response based on ‘positive developments on its directions and suggestions, HC posted the matter for further hearing on August 3.
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