The Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court on Wednesday that it was in the process of constituting a special cell to protect doctors against unwarranted police complaints and FIRs filed by kin of patients.
State Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni that the cell will comprise experts from the medical field, senior police officers, and other stakeholders.
The expert cell will examine complaints made of medical negligence against doctors and hospitals, he said.
Only if the complaints seem prima facie genuine and merit registration of a case, will the police station concerned register an FIR, Kumbhakoni said.
The complaints made by doctors against members of the public for vandalising hospital property and attacking doctors can be dealt with the existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code, he said.
"For complaints of negligence made by patients and their families against doctors, this cell will check if an FIR needs to be registered immediately. The experts will see if a case of negligence is possible and an FIR will be filed only after that," he said.
Kumbhakoni said the expert cell will be finalised by next week.
The bench accepted the statement and suggested that the state consider including IPS officers, who also hold MBBS degrees, in the cell.
Chief Justice Datta said West Bengal had a similar committee comprising nine members, and included IPS officers who also had MBBS degrees.
The court said the state of West Bengal had a separate law to protect doctors from assault by disgruntled kin of patients, and all other aspects concerning doctors and hospitals.
The Maharashtra government could draw an inspiration from such legislation and formulate one of its own, or amend the existing state laws on the subject, the HC said.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by one Dr Rajeev Joshi, seeking judicial intervention to curb violence against healthcare professionals.
As per the PIL, Maharashtra witnesses maximum number of such instances of violence.
Dr Joshi also claimed in his plea that the Maharashtra government had failed to implement the existing legal provisions, including the Maharashtra Medicare Service, Persons and Medicare Institutions (Prevention of violence and damage or loss of property) Act, 2010, to curb such instances.
In June this year, during a hearing on the PIL, the HC had suggested that the state constitute such a cell.
A doctor representing the Indian Medical Association (IMA), who was also present in the June hearing via video conferencing, had told the HC that "doctors were being attacked unnecessarily".
He had said that while doctors stuck to the protocol as much as possible, the administration of a particular drug, or a certain dose depended on the condition of a particular patient, his or her co-morbidities, or response to the line of treatment. Sometimes, doctors had to prescribe alternate drugs due to unavailability of those mentioned in the protocol, he said.
The HC had said that doctors, already overworked due to the COVID-19 pandemic, must not have to face such harassment, or spend any time giving explanations to police.
The court had directed the Maharashtra Advocate General for assistance on the existing laws over the issue.
The HC will continue the hearing next week