As Kolkata doctors call off strike, SC defers hearing on doctors’ security

The Supreme Court Tuesday deferred the hearing on a plea seeking protection of doctors in government hospitals, saying since doctors have called off their strike in West Bengal and other states, there is no urgency to hear the matter. It has promised to keep open the ‘larger issue’ of their safety

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Doctors in West Bengal on Monday (June 17) called off the their strike soon after meeting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The logjam ended after seven days of agitation, which was caused after an attack on junior doctor in Kolkata’s NRS Hospital.

The junior doctors, in a statement said, “After an enormous movement, the meeting and discussions with our chief minister met a logical end.”

A bench compromising of Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant said it will not issue a notice to the Centre but will keep the issue regarding the 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.

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 a 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 Indian Medical Association (IMA) had 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.

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

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

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 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,” the plea had stated.