The Bombay High Court on Friday suggested that the Maharashtra government consider creating a special cell of trained police officers to deal with registration of FIRs against doctors on complaints of medical negligence.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and Justice GS Kulkarni also said that the state should apprise the police authorities of the existing law and Supreme Court judgments, which allow offenses against doctors to be registered after complaints from patients’ friends or relatives. .
The court was hearing public interest litigations (PILs) on management of resources related to COVID-19 and increasing cases of attacks on doctors by relatives of patients.
On Thursday, Rajesh Inamdar, counsel for one of the petitioners, had informed the court that several doctors working in COVID-19 wards were receiving notices from the police following complaints from relatives of those patients Those who were unhappy with treatment, or in cases where patients succumbed.
Mr Inamdar was referring to the protocols issued by the Maharashtra government last year that are revised from time to time and pertain to the line of drugs and treatment that should be provided to COVID-19 patients.
A doctor representing the Indian Medical Association (IMA), who was present for the hearing via video-conferencing, then told the court that “doctors were being attacked unnecessarily”.
He said that doctors follow protocol as far as possible, administering a particular drug or a certain dosage, depending on the patient’s condition, his illness, response to the line of treatment, etc.
The doctor further added that due to non-availability of medicines mentioned in the protocol, sometimes doctors have to prescribe alternative medicines.
The High Court had said at the time that doctors who were already overworked due to the pandemic should not face such harassment, or spend any time giving explanations to the police. It had directed the Advocate General (AG) of Maharashtra for assistance on the existing laws on the issue.
On Friday, the AG submitted several previous Supreme Court rulings to show that the police should not register offenses without consideration unless there exists a clear or justified case of negligence.
The court then said that the police should be trained to find out which cases require immediate registration of the offence.
“You (the state) should apprise your police officers of the law and Supreme Court rulings on this issue. There may be a cell consisting of such police officers who are well adapted to handle these situations. Will not go to the police officer. All complaints of medical negligence will go to the trained officers.”
“The situation today is that the police should be a little cautious. He should not act immediately unless he takes a medical opinion that there is a genuine case of medical negligence. Otherwise, a doctor will not be mentally free while working, The court noted.
The court directed the state to take the decision by June 16 and place it before the high court, after which it would pass an order.
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