The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court calls for aid on medical cell rules

New Delhi, Sept. 5: The Supreme Court has summoned the attorney-general on Monday to assist it in a case which will eventually lead to a set of guidelines for filing and disposing of complaints against doctors.

The attorney-general is expected to help the court identify issues that need to be sorted out to clear the confusion surrounding the powers of the Medical Council of India to act against negligent doctors.

The decision to call the attorney-general is part of a process initiated by the court to frame the guidelines.

A division bench of Justices M.B. Shah and Ashok Bhan observed that the “medical council is not taking appropriate action” against errant doctors and “even unqualified persons are practising at the cost of a mass of illiterate and semi-literate persons”.

The bench said there was no proper procedure for a common citizen to complain against a delinquent doctor; the existing procedure “is inadequate”.

The apex court, it said, had earlier identified several related issues and the attorney-general, in the “fitness of the matter”, should now assist the court in shortlisting more factors to arrive at a set of guidelines.

The directive came on a public interest litigation by Malay Ganguly, secretary of the People for Better Treatment, a non-government organisation. He had lost his wife to alleged medical negligence.

His brother-in-law, US-based doctor Kunal Saha, too, had lost wife Anuradha after treatment at a Calcutta hospital.

The bench said “this vital issue affecting the common citizen” should be settled with the establishment of proper guidelines and directives.

An abnormal situation had arisen after various state medical councils submitted to the court that no action could be taken against a doctor registered with a council but practising in another state which has a different council.

The state in which the alleged medical negligence had been committed, too, contended that as the doctor in question was registered with the medical council of another state, only that council could initiate any action.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) contended it could not take action against a doctor registered with a state council.

Further, doctors registered directly with the MCI could also not be taken to task as they practised in different states.

Senior counsel for the petitioners M.. Krishnamani contended that the MCI rules permitted suspension of licence of a doctor convicted by a trial court and these needed to be implemented.

The MCI’s counsel argued that this rule required interpretation by the apex court so that the law was settled and the council was empowered to deal directly with complaints.

In Kunal Saha’s case, two Calcutta doctors, Sukumar Mukherjee and Baidyanath Haldar, were convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by the Alipore trial court.

But the matter is pending on appeal before Calcutta High Court. Saha has also petitioned for suspension of the two doctors’ licences, pending appeal.

The bench sought an explanation from many states and Union territories, which it said were yet to establish medical councils.

In a related matter, a contempt of court case against West Bengal Medical Council chairman Ashok Chowdhury was adjourned by four weeks. Through a letter circulated to the court, Chowdhury’s counsel had sought four weeks’ time.

Chowdhury is facing the charge for failing to comply with a court order to finish inquiry into the medical negligence resulting in the death of Anuradha Saha within a specified time and make the report available to Kunal Saha.

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