Stop Protests and Get Back to Work: K’taka HC Firmly Tells Doctors

Justice Ramesh said it was irresponsible of doctors to go on strike as it was a matter of life and death.

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India
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Doctors protest in Karnataka
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The Karnataka High Court on Friday came down heavily on the protesting doctors in the state, and directed all private medical practitioners and private medical establishments to restore services immediately.

Right to life is a fundamental right under Article 21. Every person has the right to obtain treatment under this right. Keeping this in view, all private medical practitioners and private medical establishments must restore services. The damage done to patients is sometimes irreconcilable. The doctors cannot be insensitive to the plight of patients. If there are grievances, the court will hear it. We direct all private doctors to return to work.
Justice Ramesh

The judge also reprimanded the doctors for shutting down Out Patient Departments across the state. Justice Ramesh asked the counsel representing the Indian Medical Association if he had even “briefed his client about legal proceedings in the country.”

Reprimanding the doctors for going on a strike, Justice Ramesh said that it was “irresponsible” of them as it was a “matter of life and death”.

“Have you asked your client if they will call off the strike? The law has not yet been passed. Even if it is passed, it is subject to scrutiny of the court. If you have any grievance about the law, challenge it here. Have the doctors been advised about this?” Justice Ramesh questioned.

The High Court had appealed to the doctors to call off the strike on Thursday. The judge expressed his shock stating that nothing had changed despite the request.

“Don’t the doctors know that if the state passes a law, it can be challenged? Disputes are not settled on the streets. So many laws have been challenged, Constitutional amendments have been struck down. If a law is unreasonable or arbitrary, you can come here but why shut your clinics? This profession can’t be compared to others because it is a matter of life and death,” the Judge added.

Judge Ramesh had given the IMA’s counsel time till 4:30 pm on Friday to respond to the court’s request. Since the doctors did not respond, the court issued the direction.

On Friday, Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) called off the four-day consecutive strike launched by doctors of private hospitals only in Bengaluru City, against the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (KPME) Amendments Act. However, other organisations like Indian Medical Association have remained on strike. The representatives of private hospitals are currently discussing the issue with CM Siddaramaiah at Belagavi’s Suvarna Soudha.

At issue in the amendments are clauses proposing a cap on prices of various medical procedures, provisions to jail erring doctors and a district grievance committee to oversee complaints against hospitals.

Doctors have also objected to the exclusion of government hospitals under the ambit of the act.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s Office say that the government is willing to compromise with the doctors regarding terms of imprisonment only.

“We have suggested that the doctors be given three warnings. The first two times they will be fined and the third time their license will be cancelled. We can negotiate by removing imprisonment terms. But the price cap and grievance redressal committees will stay,” the source added

Opposition Brands It Governmental Failure

The issue regarding the protesting doctors came up in the Karnataka Assembly on Friday.

Condemning the government’s failure to resolve the issue, MLA Visveswara Hegde Kageri said that the government was wasting time.

For the past one week, the doctors have been protesting. Patients are dying across the state. The government is wasting time instead of holding talks with the doctors sooner.
Visveswara Hegde Kageri

“For the past one week, the doctors have been protesting. Patients are dying across the state. The government is wasting time instead of holding talks with the doctors sooner,” the MLA said.

Responding to the Opposition’s claim, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister TB Jayachandra said that the state government has already conducted several rounds of talks with the doctors and government officials.

“Yesterday, Health Minister Ramesh Kumar and the Chief Minister held talks with government officials to discuss the issue. Today, they are holding talks with the doctors. The government is following all procedures. We are not wasting time,” the Law Minister added.

Reacting to TB Jayachandra’s statement, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Jagadish Shettar said that the government should have held talks with the doctors and assured them that the bill would not be passed during this session.

“So many people are dying because of the strike. The government could have assured the doctors that the bill would not be passed. Action should have been taken quickly and the deaths could have been avoided,” Shettar added.

(This copy was first published by The News Minute, and has been republished with permission.)

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