The Supreme Court on Monday said it wanted to ensure that critically ill patients don’t suffer when doctors go on strike.
The remarks were made by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde as the bench headed by him issued notice to the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on a plea seeking contempt action for holding a nation-wide strike in June this year to express solidarity with their counterparts in West Bengal, who were in turn protesting an attack on doctors by the family of a patient who died during treatment. The bench also issued a notice to the Centre.
“We also want to ensure that critically-ill patients are taken care of when doctors go on strike, but we can’t do it here…,” the CJI remarked. The bench however, agreed to examine the issue.
The plea by ‘People For Better Treatment’, a charitable society, referred to a November 2014 order passed by the apex court on a PIL filed by it, and said the doctors’ strike-call violated this order.
According to the petition, in its 2014 order, the SC had said a doctors’ strike may be deemed as “negligence warranting action for misconduct”.
The order further said, “That the movement of the petitioner-organization against the ‘Doctors’ strike’ is one of the activities of the petitioner to bring a safe medical environment for vulnerable patients to protect the lives of ailing citizens and to make the medical delivery system safe for the patients at all times, so that innocent patients do not suffer and die due to deliberate disruption of hospital services by doctors who frequently resort to strikes in order to satisfy their personal grievances against the government and/or hospital authorities.”
The SC had also said in the order that “we would only express our desire that doctors, who carry out a noble service as God’s agent by saving lives of people, should not resort to strikes with any intermittent cause but undertake their responsibility with efficiency and utmost sincerity at all times,” said Monday’s contempt plea, and referred to the strike in July.
The plea alleged that the IMA had negligently and “most recklessly” indulged in a contemptuous act against the court by joining the June protest.
“The unfortunate chronology of events related to the frequent doctors’ strikes in India, holding the defenceless patients at ransom despite repeated calls against it from the apex court and high court demonstrate the overtly reckless, uncaring, immoral and unlawful attitude of our medical leaders, in particular by the leaders of IMA,” the plea said.