Patients’ Day (“Rogi Divas“) was celebrated yesterday (May 28) to spread awareness about patients’ rights and to assure medical justice for all victims of medical negligence. Victims medical malpractice from distant places gathered in Kolkata to tell their stories and show solidarity in search of justice for their loved ones who have fallen prey to wrong and unethical treatment by hitherto “untouchable” doctors and hospitals. Among many grievances for the victims of medical negligence, long and inordinate delay of cases against doctors/hospitals has been a source of great frustration for many victims’ families. Despite having a clear provision that complaints for compensation (under Consumer Protection Act, 1986) should be decided by the Consumer Courts through a “summary” trial preferably within a period of six months, cases against doctors are routinely kept on pending for years and even decade because serious complaints of wrongful death by errant doctors/hospitals are listed together with other trivial consumer complaints against defective products or services. PBT has long claimed that a separate fast-track consumer court should be established only to judge cases involving medical negligence in order to send a strong and deterrent signal against medical malpractice. A Memorandum was sent to the government yesterday in demand of a fast-track court for timely disposal of all complaints of medical negligence.
Dr. Nirmal Maji, sitting president of West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) and MLA of the ruling TMC party in West Bengal, was involved in hatching an unprecedented and dangerous plan to perform dialysis of his pet dog using the machine at the SSKM Hospital, a premier tertiary-care government medical center in Kolkata where countless innocent patients attend to undergo dialysis everyday. This brazenly reckless and unscientific act by Dr. Maji in collusion with Dr. Pradip Mitra (then SSKM superintendent) and Dr. Rajendra Pandey (then SSKM urology head) posed serious danger to the lives of thousands of unsuspecting patients. After PBT lodged a complaint with MCI seeking exemplary disciplinary action against the WBMC president and two other doctors, MCI passed an Order last November directing WBMC to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action against the three doctors within a period of 3 months. More than 6 months later, WBMC has remained absolutely silent to shield their leader as MCI also showed no interest to look into this serious matter as WBMC president continues to lead investigation of complaints against other delinquent medicos. PBT has submitted a legal notice with MCI today seeking immediate cancellation of medical registration of Dr. Maji, Dr. Mitra and Dr. Pandey failing which PBT would move the appropriate legal forum to bring justice against this overt corruption in the medical regulatory authorities.
In an unprecedented development against wide-spread police inaction to lodge FIR or to initiate criminal investigation of powerful private hospitals/doctors for alleged cheating, fraud or criminal conspiracy, Court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (ACJM) in Salt Lake, Kolkata allowed PBT’s appeal against police inaction and directed police at the Bidhan Nagar (North) Police Station to register PBT’s complaint as an FIR and immediately initiate criminal investigation of several cognizable offenses against premier Apollo Clinics at City Center, Kolkata and Dr. Barun Chakraborty, a gynecologist who continued practice at the said clinic even after his medical registration was suspended by the West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC). A written complaint was lodged with the Bidhan Nagar police in March, 2018 by PBT after they came to learn that Dr. Chakraborty was regularly attending patients at Apollo Clinics although his license to practice was suspended by WBMC for a period of one year starting June, 2017. PBT’s complaint contained specific allegations of cognizable offence against Apollo Clinics and Dr. Chakraborty for violation of several provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) including Section 120b (“criminal conspiracy”), Section 420 (“cheating”) and Section 467 (“forgery”).
The senior police officer (IC), Mr. Saikat Banerjee, who received PBT’s complaint, merely “acknowledged” the complaint but refused to register an FIR against the accused (Apollo Clinics and Dr. Chakraborty) in clear violation of Section 154 CrPC. PBT then lodged a formal complaint with the Police Commissioner who also remained absolutely silent. With no other option to find justice, PBT then approached the court (under Section 156 CrPC) and the Ld. Magistrate allowed PBT’s petition this week citing several Apex Court judgments and issued categorical direction to the police to register PBT’s complaint as an FIR and to proceed immediately with the criminal investigation against Apollo Clinics and Dr. Chakraborty as per law. The complaint of similar deliberate police inaction against powerful members of the society including doctors and private hospitals is not new. In fact, PBT is also investigating several other similar criminal activities by top doctors who continue practice without any hesitation despite having their medical license revoked by the medical council.
West Bengal Medical Council suspended practicing license of a urologist, Dr. Vinay Mahendra, for a period of two years starting last November for medical negligence. Even MCI website has been showing Dr. Mahendra’s suspended registration status in the Indian Medical Register. But all this was no problem for Dr. Mahendra as he continues to treat numerous patients every day at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, the top private medical center in Kolkata. In fact, Apollo hospital continues to glorify Dr. Mahendra on their website with his attractive pictures and superlative accolades claiming how great a doctor he is only to entice the unsuspecting patients.
Earlier this month, PBT lodged a formal criminal complaint for fraud, deception and illegal medical practice against Apollo hospital and Dr. Mahendra with Phoolbagan Police Station that has jurisdiction over the hospital. The acting O.C., Mr. Suman Naskar, assured that he would take immediate action considering the serious nature of PBT’s complaint. But three weeks later, Phoolbagan police has not even registered an FIR in brazen violation of numerous judgments from Supreme Court of India as Dr. Mahendra has continued to practice at the same Apollo hospital as late as today (April 25), as verified by PBT. PBT has sent a formal complaint with the Police Commissioner, as stipulated under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, seeking immediate intervention and exemplary disciplinary action against the devious police officer at Phoolbagan Police Station. Unless Police Commissioner acts promptly against this police inaction and take adequate criminal action against the errant doctor and Apollo Hospital, PBT may move the appropriate court of law in demand of equitable justice.
Justice Mr. Shekhar Saraf at Calcutta HC has passed a historic order today and admitted PBT’s challenge (vide W.P. No. 124/2018) against the State Information Commission for not allowing an RTI application seeking information from SSKM Hospital about medical records of top leader of the ruling Trinomul party, Mr. Madan Mitra, who avoided staying in jail (after CBI arrest in the Saradha Chit Fund Scam in 2015) on medical ground using his political influence. Ironically, after spending several months in a private comfortable hospital cabin in Kolkata when he was supposed to be in jail as his application for bail was rejected on several occasions, Mr. Mitra was declared fit by the same doctors moments after his bail application was eventually allowed by the court. PBT had sought the medical information for bigger public interest to have the records verified by independent medical experts to prove or disprove whether the doctors at SSKM hospital gave false medical certificate only to help the influential political leader. The SSKM Hospital refused to provide information about Mr. Madan Mitra to cover up alleged corruption and issuance of false medical certificate by doctors who were involved with Mr. Mitra’s treatment. This new writ petition has also sought financial compensation from the W.B. Information Commission for the loss PBT suffered as PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha had traveled all the way from USA to argue this case before the Information Commission last December but the hearing was not conducted by the State Information Commission
Division bench of Chief Justice Mr. Jyotirmay Bhattacharyya and Justice Mr. Arijit Banerjee at Calcutta High Court issued notice today on a Contempt of court petition filed by PBT against West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) president, Dr. Nirmal Maji and registrar, Mr. Manas Chakraborty for their failure to comply with a previous order passed by the same bench in a pending PIL against “doctors’ strike”. Earlier in January 2018, PBT moved a PIL against inaction by the state medical council to prevent “doctors’ strike” in spite of categorical direction from the Apex Court that doctors have no right to go on strike and disrupt hospital services. The Apex Court also held (in another PIL filed by PBT in 2012) that in case of doctors’ strike, medical council must take appropriate disciplinary action against the striking doctors as stipulated under MCI Codes. While admitting the PIL against “doctors’ strike” last January, Calcutta HC also directed WBMC that they must take necessary measures to assure that all doctors are in compliance with the MCI Code of Ethics & Regulations. The Contempt petition was moved by PBT after WBMC failed to take any steps to assure that all doctors are in compliance with the provisions in the MCI Codes. The court has given 4 weeks time for service and this unprecedented “Contempt” case against the sitting president and registrar of WBMC will come up for final hearing after 6 weeks.
Leaders of Indian Medical Association (IMA) and other medical groups met with Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee today with a list of demands including increased security and harsher punishment for any unruly behavior or attacks on doctors on part of anybody who may lose momentary control after witnessing death of their loved one due to gross medical negligence, real or perceived. The Bengal government has already passed a draconian state law (Prevention of Violence and Damage of Property Act) under which anyone threatening or showing semblance of any violent behavior toward the hospital or doctor following death of their loved one from reckless therapy will be arrested under non-bailable arrest warrant and put in jail for three years. Wilting under pressure from the powerful medical groups, chief minister has promised even tougher treatment for the patient-party if they break down and shows any unruly behavior toward our healers or hospitals.
PBT has always denounced doctor bashing or hospital vandalism under any condition, even in the event of genuine incidence of death from medical negligence because two wrongs can never make a right. However, PBT has also repeatedly pleaded before the government and IMA that in order to eradicate the rare but unfortunate incidences of physical assaults on doctors, it is important to appreciate the underlying “real” cause of attacks on doctors and to think why even the most peace-loving and law-abiding citizen occasionally breaks down and takes law into his own hands after seeing his loved one suffer horrific death as a result of negligence and uncaring treatment. Our medical and political leaders need to ponder as to why nobody in developed countries like UK and USA can ever imagine patient-party attacking doctor after losing their loved one due to medical malpractice. It is only because ordinary people in these countries have trust on the medical justice delivery system and know that the errant doctors would receive harsh punishment by the medical council as well as judiciary if they were involved with “medical negligence” or unethical behavior. The picture is exactly opposite in India as medical councils primarily work only to shield their errant medical colleagues without caring for the lives of the defenseless patients. Until the deeply flawed medical regulatory system in India is completely revamped and the corrupt doctor-members are replaced with honest and compassionate doctors to give justice to the victims of medical negligence, unfortunate incidence of doctor bashing is likely to continue in India. PBT has submitted a memorandum to Bengal CM expressing concerns and these obvious reasons (see below).
The Calcutta High Court has remained virtually non-functional for the past almost one month due to a strike called by the High Court Bar Association in demand of appointment of more judges in the vacant positions. While the point that all positions of judges in the highest court in the state should be filled to prevent backlog of huge number of pending cases, boycott of court proceedings for week after week has made the suffering of the innocent justice-seekers only worse as cases are simply adjourned by the judges everyday. PBT has also suffered due to this mindless strike called by the leaders of the Bar Association as an important PIL, ironically filed against “doctors’ strike”, has been delayed indefinitely.
In a historic judgment by a Constitution bench in Common Cause v. Union of India & Anr. (2006 SCC 9, 295), Supreme Court of India categorically held that “Lawyers have no right to go on strike or give a call for boycott, not even on a token strike………And in case any Association calls for a strike or a call for boycott, the concerned State Bar Council and on their failure, Bar Court of India must immediately take disciplinary action against the Advocates who give call for a strike“. In view of this unequivocal direction by the Apex Court and in order to stop this unlawful advocates strike in Kolkata, PBT has lodged a formal complaint with the West Bengal Bar Council seeking immediate disciplinary action against the Bar Association leaders for calling the strike to bring an end to this endless pain and suffering for the countless litigants and justice-seekers in Kolkata.
Supreme Court of India has passed a landmark judgment legalizing “passive euthanasia” or “living will” so that life-support may be removed from permanently unconscious or terminally ill patients who are suffering from painful incurable diseases like end stage cancer or AIDS to let me die in a quick and dignified way. The concept of “living will” to allow a more dignified death is not new in most Western countries. Indian Apex Court has now agreed that “right to life” which is guaranteed under Article 21 of Indian Constitution should also include the right to have a rapid, painless and dignified death. The Apex Court has said that in order to enhance death by withdrawal of life-support from an unconscious patient suffering from an irreversible medical condition, treating physician and doctors of a “medical board”, in consultation with patient’s family, must first agree that the patient is afflicted with a truly “irreversible” disease and recommend “passive euthanasia”. A judge then evaluate the case and must approve before the life-support can be removed to induce a rapid and dignified death. While we should welcome this historic judgment by the Supreme Court paving the way for a more quick and painless death because nobody deserves to suffer a slow and agonizing death, PBT has raised the concern about the possibility of grave abuse of this process by unscrupulous doctors and patient’s family leading to the induction of a wrongful and premature death of an unconscious patient (read PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha’s article on this published in Hindu Business Online at the link https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/specials/pulse/sc-judgement-on-living-will-places-an-enormous-responsibility-in-doctors-hands/article23274337.ece; also attached below).
West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) President and Trinoomul MLA, Dr. Nirmal Maji, surrendered today before the court of Ld. Metropolotian Magistrate, Mr. Debashis Panja, in Bankshall Court (Case No. CNS/415/17; Dr. Kunal Saha vs. Dr. Nirmal Maji & Anr.) to face criminal charges filed against him under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 120b (“criminal conspiracy”), Section 500 (“criminal defamation”) and Section 501 (“engraving defamatory matter”) for each of which, if convicted, Dr. Maji may be imprisoned for up to two years. Dr. Maji personally appeared in the court today and was released on a Rs. 1000/- bail plus one surity until the next hearing fixed on 10th April, 2018.
This historic and unprecedented criminal case emerged from Dr. Maji’s brazen attempt to dialyze his pet dog using the dialysis machine at SSKM Hospital where thousands of patients undergo dialysis in the most reckless manner using political influence in 2015. After PBT lodged a complaint against Dr. Maji with the Medical Council of India (MCI) seeking cancellation of his medical registration for his unethical conduct, MCI directed WBMC to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action against Dr. Maji within three months vide an order dated 4th November, 2017. Following publication of this MCI Order, Dr. Maji made slanderous and overtly defamatory remarks against PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, in the media including that PBT was formed by Dr. Saha only to make financial profit from the victims of medical negligence. It is well-known that since its inception in 2001, PBT has never taken any money from anyone for helping the victims of medical negligence or other purposes.
Dr. Saha first sent a legal notice to Dr. Maji asking him to apologize and retract his baseless personal comments but the Trinomul MLA refused to apologize or retract his comments. During his last trip to India in December, 2017, Dr. Saha personally appeared in the court to lodge this historic criminal case against WBMC president. Two other witnesses were also examined by the court on 31st January, 2018 in support of Dr. Saha’s petition as court took cognizance and issued processes/summons against Dr. Maji for which he appeared and surrendered before the court today. Dr. Maji now stands indicted for criminal offence under several sections of IPC. PBT wonders whether a criminally indicted doctor can continue to work as the head of a state medical council or remain as an MLA until he is exonerated from all charges?
A new contempt of court petition was filed in Calcutta High Court against West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) president, Dr. Nirmal Maji and Registrar for violating court’s previous order passed in response to PBT’s public interest litigation (PIL) against “doctors’ strike”. On January 5, Calcutta HC division bench presided by the acting chief justice passed an order directing WBMC to assure that all doctors are in compliance to the MCI Code of Ethics & Regulations, 2002 that stipulated that doctors cannot refuse treatment when a patient is in need of medical intervention. The court also directed WBMC to file response affidavit within 2 weeks time. More than a month later, WBMC did not take any steps to assure compliance of doctors and they also did not file any response affidavit as directed by the court. So, PBT filed a contempt petition against WBMC president and registrar and the matter was mentioned before the court today. The court has directed that this unprecedented contempt case will be heard on Thursday (February 15, 2018)
Ld. Magistrate in Bankshall Criminal Court in Kolkata examined two witnesses and issued processes under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 120b (“criminal conspiracy”), 500 (“criminal defamation”) and 501 (“printing defamatory matters”) against West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) president and Trinomul MLA, Dr. Nirmal Maji and editor of a newspaper in Kolkata. This historic and unprecedented was filed last month by PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, following a public outburst against Dr. Saha by WBMC president in a popular Bengali newspaper because PBT had lodged a complaint with MCI against Dr. Maji who hatched a plan to use the dialysis machine of a tertiary state-run premier hospital (SSKM Hospital) to perform dialysis of Dr. Maji’s pet dog that could have posed serious danger to the thousands of patients who undergo dialysis at the SSKM Hospital. MCI had directed the state medical council to investigate and take appropriate disciplinary action against the WBMC president for his unethical and dangerous conduct. While issuing summons against Dr. Maji, court has fixed 7th March, 2018 for next hearing when Dr. Maji will have to appear before the criminal court.
Bankshall Court in Kolkata took cognizance of a criminal case filed by PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha under IPC Sections 120b (criminal conspiracy), 500 and 501 (criminal defamation) against sitting president of West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC), Dr. Nirmal Maji. This unprecedented criminal case emerged from an appeal lodged by PBT with the MCI against Dr. Maji seeking cancellation of his medical registration after WBMC president planned to dialysis a pet dog in the machine at a tertiary government hospital (SSKM Hospital in Kolkata) using extraneous influence that could have posed serious danger to countless patients who visit SSKM hospital for dialysis everyday. After news was published that MCI had directed the state medical council to investigate and take action against Dr. Maji within a period of 3 months, Dr. Maji started personal attacks and made defamatory comments against PBT and Dr. Saha. A criminal case was lodged against Dr. Maji during Dr. Saha’s trip to India last month. Two new witnesses are scheduled to testify on behalf of PBT and Dr. Saha before the judicial magistrate at Bankshall Court in Kolkata on Wednesday (January 31, 2018). Each of the IPC Section filed against the WBMC president carries a maximum of 2 years of imprisonment, if convicted.
Mamata Banerjee-led Bengal government established a Health Commission last year claiming that the Commission will investigate all complaints of “medical negligence” in a fair and transparent manner. But the senior most medical member selected for this Health Commission is Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, well-known for his role in causing death of Anuradha Saha from gross medical negligence in the historic case of highest-ever compensation awarded by the Supreme Court a few years ago. The Apex Court not only held Dr. Mukherjee as the most culprit doctor responsible for Anuradha’s death, court also made scathing criticism of Dr. Mukherjee’s character holding him as “unbecoming of a doctor” and that he has brought “utmost disrespect to the medical profession”. But shockingly, Dr. Mukherjee was chosen by the Bengal government to judge allegations of “medical negligence” against all doctors in the state.
PBT challenged nomination of Dr. Mukherjee as a judge in the Health Commission because of his tainted background and also because this act undermines sanctity of the Hon’ble Apex Court in clear violation of Article 144 of Indian Constitution that mandates that all civil and judicial bodies in India must act in aid of Supreme Court. PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, personally appeared before Calcutta High Court last year to argue this PIL on behalf of PBT. After the matter was posted for further hearing this year, Dr. Saha appealed that he may be allowed to appear and argue this matter through “live” videoconferencing from his place of permanent in USA. The HC allowed his appeal and further hearing of this historic PIL started last week when Dr. Saha appeared through videoconferencing from his residence in Columbus, Ohio and argued this matter before a division bench of Justices Mr. Sanjib Banerjee and Mr. Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya. The PIL hearing will continue through videoconferencing for final argument on Tuesday, January 30.
PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, traveled to India and appeared before the National Consumer Forum (NCDRC)last week to argue separate cases of “medical negligence” on behalf of 4 victims who came to PBT seeking justice after losing their loved one from alleged act of medical malpractice. In response to a PIL moved by PBT, Supreme Court of India permitted non-advocates and NGOs to argue as authorized-representative (A/R) in medical negligence cases to help the victims of medical and/or ethical malpractice by doctors and hospitals. In 2009 and 2013, Dr. Saha himself argued the historic case involving his wife’s (Anuradha Saha) wrongful death before the Apex Court and won the highest ever compensation (Rs. 11.5 crore) award against several senior doctors and AMRI hospital in Kolkata. Ever since, Dr. Saha has frequently traveled to India and argued before the Supreme Court and High Courts across India in many important public interest litigations (PILs) against medical corruption and also individual cases of medical negligence. Although while allowing non-advocates to argue before consumer courts, Supreme Court also directed that non-advocates and NGOs may accept up to 25% of the compensation awarded to the victims as service expenses with prior approval from the court, PBT and Dr. Saha have been working and helping the victims of medical negligence completely free of cost. In all 4 cases that Dr. Saha argued before the NCDRC last week including a major case against the Apollo Gleneagles Hospital in Kolkata (seeking compensation of almost Rs. 6 crore), court accepted all complaints prima facie and issued against the accused doctors/hospital (see news below),