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Thursday, August 06, 2020

SC-ST Cell probe upholds AIIMS doctor’s bias charge against faculty

The SC-ST Cell report notes that "there is sufficient evidence to show that inappropriate remarks were made by the accused... this has been accepted by the accused and further reinforced by the witnesses”.

Written by Somya Lakhani | New Delhi | Updated: July 19, 2020 10:25:11 am
SC-ST Cell probe, AIIMS doctor, caste and gender baised, Randeep Guleria, Indian express news The committee submitted its 17-page report to AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria on June 24. (File photo)

A faculty member at AIIMS had “showed his covert and implicit social bias” by using words like “mind your level” with a senior resident doctor, and an “internal committee did not conduct the inquiry with fairness and pressured the woman to withdraw her complaint”.

These are the findings of an AIIMS SC-ST Cell committee that probed complaints of “caste- and gender-based” remarks by a senior resident doctor at AIIMS against a faculty member.

The committee submitted its 17-page report to AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria on June 24, recommending “appropriate administrative/legal action against the accused”, who is with the hospital’s Centre for Dental Education & Research (CDER).

“Although the accused didn’t explicitly use gender or caste-based remarks against the victim, but he did use words like ‘billi’, ‘mind your level’, etc which are derogatory, humiliating and demeaning, more so to a lady and also to undermine her professional capabilities, and showed his covert and implicit social bias towards the victim,” the report, accessed by The Sunday Express, notes.

The committee was headed by Dr K K Verma, Professor, dermatology and venereology, at AIIMS. S K Panda, Deputy Director (Administration), AIIMS, said they had begun action on the report. “The committee has recommended certain steps and those are being taken. We are going through the due process of taking disciplinary action, so we are issuing show-cause notices,” he told The Sunday Express.

On April 17, the senior resident doctor had been found unconscious in her hostel room after taking an overdose of her medication. In an FIR on the matter, dealing specifically with an incident on March 16, she said, “For two years, the faculty member has been discriminating against me… I complained to the CDER chief and every time she stopped me from giving a written complaint.”

The SC-ST Cell report notes that “there is sufficient evidence to show that inappropriate remarks were made by the accused… this has been accepted by the accused and further reinforced by the witnesses”.

On the role of the internal committee set up by the CDER, the report says, “(It) did not conduct the inquiry with fairness, respect and dignity and pressurised her (the woman) to withdraw her complaint cr, further creating a sense of denial of justice to a lady doctor belonging to marginalised section of the society… repeated misconduct, humiliation and non-redressal of her grievances created a sense of insecurity and denial of justice led her to a state of despair and hopelessness which probably forced her to take the extreme step of consuming toxic doses of antidepressants on 17.04.2020.”

The report also quotes some junior residents as testifying that “the accused objected to their interactions with the victim in professional matters in an attempt to isolate her”.

The report mentions that the Resident Doctors’ Association had approached the AIIMS Director regarding the alleged harassment, on March 22.

The committee recorded statements of the senior resident doctor, the faculty member, as well as doctors, nurses and staff members who were present when the alleged March 16 incident happened.

It questioned the testimonies of a junior resident doctor and a staffer, saying they had “made statements which were fabricated, evidently misleading and not corroborated by the statements of other witnesses… with an intention to mislead (the) committee and the inquiry to shift onus of the incident on to the victim and shield the accused”.

The committee made six recommendations, including “appropriate administrative/legal action against the accused” and “appropriate action as per rules against the junior resident and the staffer for intentionally giving false information”.

The committee also recommended that both the accused and victim “may be provided psychological support to prevent such incidents in the future”, and that an “advisory be issued to chief of CDER to address the grievances of all staff in a timely and effective manner, especially those belonging to vulnerable sections of the society as per the Constitution and guidelines of the government of India”.

In her FIR, the resident doctor had alleged that on March 16, the faculty member had used “uncivilised language and casteist slurs towards me in front of patients and their attendants”. She also claimed that he “violently removed her from (a) seat” and said, “Tu SC hai, apne level mein reh (You are a Scheduled Caste, stay within your limits).” She alleged she was later summoned by the CDER chief, who told her she should not “misbehave with a faculty member”.

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