The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Thursday said it is the obligation of the Maharashtra government to protect the doctors from any kind of assault on them by the relatives of patients, especially during the prevailing situation.
The bench led by CJ Datta has also ordered the Maharashtra government to submit a detailed note spelling out the total number of FIRs lodged over incidents of assault on doctors and also the provisions of law invoked against the assailants in these cases.
The bench was seized with a PIL filed by Pune-based Dr Rajeev Joshi through his counsel Nitin Deshpande highlighting the rise in cases of assault on doctors by the kin of the patients.
On Thursday when the matter came up for hearing, Deshpande, who also appeared for the Indian Medical Association urged for directives to the state police to invoke more stringent provisions against those who assault doctors. He also asked for a directive to the lower courts to impose hefty fines on such persons, if granted bail.
At this, CJ Datta clarified, "We cannot issue such a direction for heavy fines. There are laws that must be followed by the authorities while dealing with such cases."
"At least let them invoke provision of the Epidemic Diseases Act against such persons," Deshpande requested.
Accordingly, Chief Justice Datta ordered the Maharashtra government to place on record the total number of FIRs lodged against persons for assaulting doctors.
"We hope and trust that the provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act would be invoked. We say so, as we need to protect doctors as they are protecting the society in these testing times," the chief justice observed.
Further, Deshpande said that the number of such incidents have increased during the pandemic.
At this, Justice Kulkarni said that the state must ensure that there is no such attack.
"You (state) need to protect doctors especially because they are already working hard and under pressure in the present times. We would fail in our duty as a responsible state, if we do not protect the doctors," Justice Kulkarni remarked.
The judges in their six page order said, "We direct the state to take all necessary steps to ensure that there is no violence against the medical and healthcare professionals and such violence, if there be any, is dealt with
firmly according to law."
"We further direct that adequate police personnel be posted at hospitals, wards, etc. and sensitized
and instructed so that any act of crime against the medical and
healthcare professionals can be nipped in the bud," the bench ordered.
The judges further said that sufficient
boards or posters must also be put up at such places to make it clear that there will be "zero tolerance towards any form of violence against medical and healthcare professionals."
"At the same time, it would be obligatory for the hospitals to ensure that the patients and their relatives are furnished proper information as to the line of treatment or otherwise, apprise them of the possible risks that could be involved in course of treatment and counsel them about the health status of the patients, albeit upon maintaining COVID-19 protocol," the bench said.
Meanwhile, the bench ordered the hospital's associations as well as another union of doctors to submit the suggestions, they think, could be urgently enforced. "Please be mindful of the fact that your suggestions should be within the laws of the land. It shouldn't demand amendment of any of the laws and must be of the nature that could be urgently implemented by the authorities. Be reasonable," chief justice told the petitioners.
During the hearing, Justice Kulkarni pointed out at the 2016 orders passed by the then chief justice Manjula Chellur of the HC in a matter pertaining to indefinite strike of doctors.
"You (State) go through Justice Chellur's orders, most of the issues are taken care of in those orders. There was an assurance by the police that it would provide security and police protection to doctors in government run hospitals," Justice Kulkarni said.
"We would want to know if those orders are implemented," the judge added while adjourning the matter.