End of doctors’ strike takes pressure off Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ordered listing of the issue of doctors' safety and security before an appropriate bench, as it felt there was no urgency in hearing the matter now

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Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday deferred the hearing on a plea seeking the protection of doctors in government hospitals. It said since the doctors had called off their strike in West Bengal and other States, there was no urgency to hear the matter.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant said it would not issue a notice (to the Centre) but is keeping the larger issue of protection of doctors open. “We agreed to hear the plea today as there was a strike by doctors and medical fraternity in West Bengal and other States. The strike has been called off and there appears no urgency to hear the petition. List (the matter) before an appropriate bench,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association also filed an impleadment application seeking the court’s intervention into the plea already filed, saying protection needs to be provided to doctors across the country.

The bench said it needs to take a holistic view in providing security to doctors.

“We understand it is a serious issue but we can’t provide security to doctors at the cost of other citizens. We have to take a holistic view. We have to look at the larger picture. We are not against protection to doctors,” the bench said.

Doctors in Bengal had been on strike since two of their colleagues were assaulted allegedly by relatives of a patient after he died last week. They called off their protest Monday night after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a meeting assured them of steps by her government to scale up security at state-run hospitals in the State.

The breakthrough came on day health services especially Outpatient Departments (OPDs) were crippled across the country as doctors held protests and boycotted work to show solidarity with their colleagues in Bengal.

The plea in the top court was filed on Friday and had sought directions to Union ministries of home affairs and health and West Bengal to depute government-appointed security personnel at all state-run hospitals to ensure safety and security of doctors.

It had also sought directions to Bengal government to take the strictest legal and penal action against those who assaulted the two junior doctors at a hospital in Kolkata.

The plea had cited IMA data to say that more than 75% of doctors across the country have faced some form of violence.

It said the study concluded that 50% of violent incidents have taken place in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals and in 70% cases, relatives of patients were actively involved.

“The doctors are our saviours and particularly the doctor working in government hospitals are doing great national service, particularly to the poor and downtrodden of this country, in extremely adverse circumstances,” it had said.