The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Neglect notice on doctors

New Delhi, Oct. 31: The Supreme Court today issued notices to West Bengal Medical Council president Ashok Chowdhury and Calcutta-based doctor Sukumar Mukherjee in a medical negligence case.

A division bench of Justices Brijesh Kumar and Arun Kumar, which issued the notices, asked the respondent doctors, the state medical council and the Medical Council of India to reply within six weeks.

The judges also took on record an affidavit by the petitioner, Dr Kunal Saha, charging Dr Chowdhury with “bias” regarding the death of his wife Anuradha due to alleged maltreatment at the AMRI Hospital in Calcutta five years ago.

Mukherjee, who had recently treated Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, and Dr Baidyanath Haldar had been convicted by the Alipore trial court in the case and sentenced to three-months’ rigorous imprisonment. Their appeal against the order is pending before Calcutta High Court.

Petitioner’s counsel M.. Krishnamani told the court that the state council president had deposed against Saha in the medical negligence case and was declared a “hostile” witness by the trial court.

Saha contended that, in the case filed by him against Mukherjee, Chowdhury deposed that he personally knew the doctor for the past 30-40 years.

The state medical council president clearly testified to protect Dr Mukherjee, “thereby depicting his biased attitude against the petitioner even under oath”, said the petitioner.

The petitioner also annexed a copy of the deposition for the perusal of the apex court. “Now his (Chowdhury’s) continuing as the state medical council president clearly establishes bias and, hence, his giving clean chits to other doctors accused in the medical negligence case is invalid,” argued the petitioner’s counsel.

Krishnamani said the question before the court is whether a doctor, who is an interested party in a medical negligence, can continue as the state medical council chief as the council has to take action against errant medical practitioners.

Calcutta High Court had on February 22, 2002, dismissed Saha’s plea that Chowdhury be removed from the disciplinary committee of the state medical council.

The petitioner thus approached the Supreme Court through a special leave petition.

However, the state medical council has dismissed Saha’s complaint against Mukherjee and some other doctors, prompting the petitioner to argue that a person who is an interested party in a medical negligence case could not sit in judgment on the complaint against doctors. Such a person could not continue either in the disciplinary committee of the medical council or as the president of the council, argued the petitioner.

The case will be taken up after six weeks for further hearing.

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