Oct. 19: The Supreme Court today issued a notice asking chief minister Mamata Banerjee why she should not be made a party to a case challenging the appointment of a controversial doctor as the chief health adviser to the state government.
A bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and A.R. Dave issued the notice to Mamata while admitting a case filed by NRI doctor Kunal Saha.
Saha had contended that physician Sukumar Mukherjee should not have been made the chief health adviser as the apex court had found him to be negligent in the treatment of the NRI’s wife, Anuradha Saha, which led to her death. Saha also said that Mukherjee had been asked to pay Rs 40 lakh as compensation by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission for the same reason.
The Medical Council of India (MCI), too, had cancelled Mukherjee’s licence for three months after the adverse comments of the Supreme Court.
Saha had approached the Supreme Court after a Calcutta High Court division bench refused to include Mamata’s name as a party. The NRI felt that Mamata should be made the main respondent in her capacity as health minister.
However, in August this year, the division bench of Justices K.J. Sengupta and A. K. Mondal said: “Ms. Mamata Banerjee is neither a necessary nor an appropriate party. Accordingly, her name be struck out from the array of the respondents…. The chief minister alone nor personally can take a decision and the decision is taken always by the cabinet.”
Among the other respondents are Mukherjee, Sanjay Mitra, the former principal secretary of health and now the chief secretary, and the MCI. The court did not object to these names.
However, PTI quoted the Supreme Court as observing today: “It was surely abnormal procedure adopted by Calcutta High Court. She should have been issued notice and she should be heard before deleting her name from the list of parties.”
The bench clarified that it was issuing a notice to Mamata only on why she should not remain one of the respondents in the case filed in the high court.
Saha had contended in his petition that Mukherjee’s appointment was wrong as the doctor was severely criticised by the apex court.
On April 12, 2012, Mamata had announced that Mukherjee, in his seventies now, would be made the chief health adviser. She had earlier appointed other doctors, including Subrata Maitra and Tridib Banerjee, as members of an expert committee of the health department.
According to Swastha Bhavan sources, the order was formally passed in July 2012 and Mukherjee was not receiving any remuneration from the government.
“The high court had passed an order stating that such a petition shouldn’t be moved against any particular individual. It also said the appointment was made officially by the principal secretary of the state health department,” T.V. George, one of the lawyers representing Saha, said from Delhi. “But we argued that Mamata is also the state’s health minister.”
Government pleader Ashok Banerjee, who had represented the state government in the high court, said the case was against an office and not an individual. “I am very surprised by the Supreme Court order,” said Banerjee.
Anuradha, a child psychologist, died in May 1998 at the age of 36 following complications related to the treatment for fever and skin rash in Calcutta.