The historic criminal case filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 120b (“criminal conspiracy”) and Section 201 (“giving false information to screen offender”)filed against almost the entire West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) including then state council president, Dr. Ashok Chowdhury, has been fixed for final hearing before the Apex Court on Monday, April 11, 2016 (SC SLP Cri. No. 8024/2013; Ashok Kumar Chowdhury & Ors. vs. Kunal Saha & Anr.). In 2011, a trial court in Kolkata found 17 doctor-members of WBMC prima facie guilty for “criminal conspiracy” while acquitting Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, a senior physician who was found guilty by the Supreme Court in 2009 for medical negligence causing death of Anuradha Saha, wife of PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha. However, Medical Council of India (MCI) later overturned the WBMC’s decision by holding Dr. Mukherjee (and two other senior doctors who have since died) guilty for medical negligence and directed to cancel his medical registration for a period of three months.
The WBMC, headed by then council president Dr. Ashok Chowdhury, found absolutely no fault with the treatment of Dr. Mukherjee in a closed-door meeting in 2002. While 17 doctor-members gave a clean chit to Dr. Mukherjee, only 2 members found the doctor guilty. The WBMC also refused to disclose any information about their closed-door investigation process even after Dr. Saha sought the information under the RTI Act, 2005. However, after the CPM-led government (where all doctor-members belonged) was toppled in West Bengal in 2011, information about the investigation of the complaint against Dr. Mukherjee was released by the newly formed WBMC where all members were backed by the anti-CPM Trinomial Congress party. Based on the evidence that nearly showed that the WBMC had conducted a sham investigation only to shield the accused doctor, Dr. Saha filed a criminal case under IPC Sections 120b and 201 against the 17 doctors who voted to exonerate Dr. Mukherjee.
After the trial court in Kolkata took cognizance of the criminal complaint against the 17 doctor-members of WBMC and issued warrants against them, the accused WBMC doctors moved Calcutta High Court to quash the complaint. The Calcutta High Court also dismissed the quashing petition in 2013 and directed the charged doctors to stand for trial, the criminally-indicted doctors moved the Supreme Court challenging the Calcutta High Court decision. After another long delay for more than two years, this historic case will now be decided by the Apex Court next month. It is a common knowledge that medical councils across India have turned into a den of corruption that primarily function to shield the negligent doctors without caring for the lives of the innocent victims of “medical negligence”. There can be no dispute that the unprecedented criminal case against the 17 doctor-members of WBMC may have enormous impact on the deep-rooted corruption inside the MCI and state medical councils.