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Interns, prove thy innocence

Calcutta, Nov. 5: The Bengal government has decided that the four interns whose suspension it has recommended will be tried on the basis of a principle alien to Indian law: they will have to prove their innocence.

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said today Biplab Chandra, Subhajit Ray, Subhankar Chatterjee and Rakesh Sharma would have to “defend themselves and prove that they are innocent”.

Under law, guilt — not innocence — has to be proved.

Suspension was recommended for the four and two members of the house staff were sacked for their alleged role in Saturday’s unruly incidents at RG Kar Medical College, though the charges against the six have not been officially spelt out.

The Medical Service Centre, an association of mostly opposition SUCI supporters, has called a medical students’ strike and asked junior doctors to boycott outdoor duty tomorrow in protest against the government action. The students’ union of the Trinamul Congress has called a students’ strike in medical colleges on Monday.

Mishra said he was not aware of any threat to strike or boycott duty. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, too, gave a glimpse of the hardening attitude. “Dekha jak (let’s see),” he said of the possible impact of the protest action.

The Indian Medical Association sought to step up the heat on the government by saying it would support all movements to get the six junior doctors a reprieve. Its Delhi office has faxed a message to the chief minister, asking him to revoke the punishment and demanding a judicial probe.

IMA leaders said they would wait for a few days for the government to reconsider its stand and then look for the legal route. “We will move Calcutta High Court,” IMA joint secretary R.D. Dubey said.

Mishra was unmoved. “Which IMA are you talking about'” he asked. The IMA has several factions, divided according to political affiliation.

Medical college campuses were abuzz with activity, for and against the protest calls. A silent majority, despite being critical of the government move, felt that strikes and boycotts had outlived their utility. “We will explore other avenues to save our colleagues,” said an NRS intern.

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