Calcutta, Dec. 1: When a government counsel was telling Justice Indira Banerjee of Calcutta High Court last week that it was withdrawing the case against six RG Kar junior doctors, not many could imagine what was happening on the hospital campus.
Apparently unmindful of the case in court, the hospital authorities did exactly the opposite of what the government counsel said. They sent a letter — the third addressed to the junior doctors — on November 25, asking them to appear before a committee that was probing allegations against them without telling them what they were.
Prodded by the government, the authorities of RG Kar Medical College and Hospital decided to punish the six junior doctors last month for “negligence and indiscipline”. Four interns were suspended and two house-staff dismissed.
Three of them, all belonging to the All-India Democratic Students’ Organisation, went to court, alleging that the action against them was illegal as they had not been told what the charges were and not given an opportunity to explain their stand.
Justice Banerjee stayed the action against them in an interim order. After being told by the government counsel that the case was being withdrawn, Justice Banerjee delivered the final order on November 25. She said the government or the hospital could still initiate disciplinary action against the six doctors, but not before telling them what the charges were.
Justice Banerjee also told the counsel that any action against them must keep to the rules. She dismissed the case after lawyers representing both sides (the government and the junior doctors) agreed to the directives.
On the campus, however, a different tale was unfolding. Around the same time the court was in session and the government counsel was nodding to the judge’s directives, the hospital authorities were driving their knives deeper into the junior doctors.
In the letter that was, for all practical purposes, a copy of the earlier directives to the junior doctors, the hospital authorities asked them to appear before a committee to help probe the allegations against them. They were directed to appear before the committee “regarding the incidence (sic) on November 1 and November 2”.
The trio which went to court — Biplab Chanda, Subhankar Chatterjee and Subhajit Ray — has replied to the letter. “Holding of an enquiry without disclosing the charges amounts to a clear violation of the order of the court,” they wrote, following advice from their legal experts. To make the message clearer, they told the authorities that their action amounted to contempt of court.
The RG Kar authorities would not comment on the latest controversy but director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti said the government did not want to penalise the students. Almost speaking at variance with the hospital, he said he was hoping for an early end to the impasse. “The authorities should teach and the students should study,” he added, hoping that no one would move court again.