The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poser to states on doctors

New Delhi, Dec. 12: The Kunal Saha case took an all-India turn today with the Supreme Court asking all states, Union Territories and their health secretaries to reply why some of them have not established medical councils and taken action against doctors responsible for maltreatment.

Justice M.B. Shah and Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari issued notices on a public interest litigation by Malay Ganguli, who sought a directive from the court on initiating stringent action against errant doctors throughout the country.

Ganguli is the brother of Anuradha Saha, a US-based doctor who died of alleged medical negligence in Calcutta when she came down from Washington with her husband Kunal Saha, also a doctor.

Two Calcutta doctors were criminally convicted by the Alipore court in the case.

In today’s proceedings, senior counsel for the petitioner M.N. Krishnamani, along with advocate Avik Dutta, submitted that only 17 states have so far complied with the requirement of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, of establishing medical councils.

The judges observed that the state governments would respond to their notices on establishing medical councils while the health secretaries would reply on the action taken so far against doctors accused of maltreatment leading to death or permanent disability.

At this, Krishnamani told the court that the Medical Council of India (MCI) has since 1993 referred about 500 complaints against doctors to state councils, out of which only three had been taken up. The judges said the reply by the health secretaries would cover this aspect.

The counsel for the Delhi medical council then rose to say that the “problem” was that the MCI “directly” registered doctors who were otherwise not enrolled with any state council.

“The problem is that under law, only the respective state council could initiate action against errant doctors and it becomes impossible to take action against doctors who are directly registered with the MCI and not enrolled with any other state council,” he said.

The counsel for the MCI countered this argument, saying several states have not set up medical councils and that Delhi itself had established its council only two years ago. “The court’s direction to all states would now take care of the issue as state governments would be now compelled to reply or establish respective state medical council,” he said.

“So far, the state governments were not issued with any notice in the case and it was only the medical council. Now that notices are issued to all state and Union Territory governments, the issue assumes all-India significance.”

In a related development, Delhi High Court, too, had issued notices to the MCI on Saha’s petition seeking cancellation of the licences of the two Calcutta doctors.

It will be the first time in the history of India’s medical jurisprudence that permanent cancellation of a doctor’s licence in a negligence case would be decided.

Krishnamani pointed out in today’s proceedings that there were bar councils in all states and Union Territories and an errant lawyer did lose his licence to practice for professional misconduct.

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