While hearing PBT’s challenge to recent direction by Calcutta High Court to deposit Rs. 10 lakh as a pre-condition for hearing PIL seeking exhumation and postmortem of a 6-month old baby-girl victim of alleged medical negligence, 3-judge bench of Supreme Court presided by chief justice Mr. Dipak Mishra granted “leave” to approach the same Calcutta High Court bench asking to remove the Rs. 10 lakh advance deposit. The Apex Court also indicated that there is no provision in law to impose a pre-conditional deposit even before hearing a public interest litigation (PIL). Appearing for PBT, Senior Advocate Mr. Bhim Singh argued that it is unheard of that a court can impose financial burden even before hearing a PIL or judging whether it is maintainable or not. The order passed last month by division bench of Calcutta HC presided by chief justice shocked all NGOs and conscientious citizens who take the duty to fight social injustices by filing PILs for benefit of the entire society. The PIL was filed after the poor father of the baby-girl victim, who died at HLG Hospital at Asansol, came to PBT seeking help in finding medical justice for his departed child. Postmortem even after burial may shed more light to identify the exact cause of death of this unfortunate baby. The original PIL will now be heard and decided by the Calcutta High Court (see news below).
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) Bengal Branch held a highly publicized program to celebrate “Doctors’ Day” on July 1 at their head office near Park Circus, Kolkata where many doctor, political, and even government leaders participated to discuss various problems with the healthcare delivery system. While most doctor-leaders expressed their concerns about physical assaults by shocked friends and family members following death of a patient from alleged medical negligence, little was discussed about the “real” underlying reason for occasional unfortunate incidences of doctor bashing and hospital vandalism. Unlike in the Western countries like UK and USA where ordinary people cannot even imagine attacking doctors following death of their loved one from gross medical negligence because they almost always get medical justice through an honest and transparent investigation process by the medical council and also by the court of law unlike in India. However, PBT never condones doctor bashing or hospital vandalism even in the event of death from genuine “medical negligence” because two wrongs can never make a right.
The height of the sham pro-patients demonstration by the IMA on Doctors’ Day was invitation of veteran Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, the most negligent physician in Indian medical history who was found guilty for gross medical negligence causing death of Anuradha Saha and ordered to pay the highest-ever compensation of Rs. 11.5 crore (along with AMRI Hospital and two other doctors). In the scathing judgment holding Dr. Mukherjee guilty for medical malpractice, Apex Court also severely criticized Dr. Mukherjee’s character as the court expressed that his behavior was “unbecoming of a doctor” and that he brought “great disrespect to the medical profession”. Shockingly, Dr. Mukherjee delivered a lecture before a packed house of IMA doctors on medical negligence and doctor-patient relationship. Do we still wonder why the “good” doctors still do not understand why public is losing trust on our healers?
PBT has filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the Calcutta High Court interim order passed two weeks ago. The Calcutta High Court directed that PBT must put an advance deposit of Rs. 10 lakh before the court may hear a public interest litigation (PIL) in which PBT had sought court’s permission to conduct postmortem of a 6-month old baby-girl, Kushi Ghosh, who died due to alleged medical negligence at HLG Hospital, a private medical center in Asansol. The hapless parents of the unfortunate child, who are from a very poor socio-economic background, came to PBT seeking help in search of justice for their departed daughter. PBT moved the PIL, with supporting opinion from forensic medical expert, to allow exhumation of the body of the deceased baby-girl and perform a postmortem to correctly identify the exact cause of death of the child. But Calcutta HC passed this unprecedented interim order asking PBT to put down a huge deposit even before the court may hear the PIL on its merit. The SLP will soon be decided by the Apex Court.
In an unprecedented and shocking blow to all registered humanitarian organizations (NGOs) that are working to help ordinary people of India find social justice through public interest litigations (PILs), Calcutta High Court (HC) passed an unprecedented order directing PBT to make a hefty advance deposit of Rs. 10 lakh even before hearing to decide whether a PIL is “maintainable” or not. PBT recently moved a PIL (W.P. No. 197/2018) seeking direction for exhumation and postmortem of a 6-month old baby-girl after the unfortunate and poor parents came to PBT seeking help to find justice as they alleged lack of care and gross medical negligence responsible for death of their child at a private hospital (HLG Hospital) in Asansol. The hapless parents also lodged a police complaint soon after death of their child but police remained non-responsive as no postmortem was performed to ascertain the exact cause of death.
Victim’s family came to PBT more than two months after death of their baby-girl and PBT approached Calcutta HC through this PIL, with supporting opinion from forensic medical expert, seeking court’s permission to exhume the body to perform postmortem to find the cause of death as also wanted by the hapless parents. Postmortem often sheds light on the exact cause of death of a patient that in turn may prove useful to establish medical negligence. But division bench of chief justice Mr. Jyotirmay Bhattacharya and Mr. Arijit Banerjee of Calcutta HC has directed PBT to make an advance deposit of whopping amount of Rs. 10 lakh for hearing after two weeks to decide whether the PIL is “maintainable”. The HC has further said that the entire money would be forfeited if the court finally decides that the PIL is not maintainable or frivolous. This unprecedented order by a high court obviously sends a chilling signal to all NGOs for filing PILs seeking social justice in future. PBT will challenge this seemingly shocking order in the Supreme Court for the ends of justice.
In the written exam held earlier this month at the King George’s Medical University in Lucknow for doctors in the program for obtaining post-graduate degree in medicine (M.D.), a question simply asked, “Write briefly on violence against doctors: Causes, effects and solution“. A valid point may be raised whether this question at all belongs in the examination for would be medicine specialists but more importantly, having been involved with the unequal fight for justice for the victims of medical negligence, we wonder what would be the standard for the examiners to judge the “correct” answer to this unusual question for M.D. examinees? Apart from the debatable answers for the “causes” or “effects” of violence against doctors, what is the right “solutions” to solve the crisis of wide-spread medical negligence and sporadic attacks on doctors?
PBT never supports the idea of doctor bashing or hospital vandalism under any condition, even in the event of death from genuine incidence of “medical negligence” because two wrongs can never make a right. But there is no argument that most cases of violence against doctors happen due to deep erosion of public trust on the medical community. When a loved person dies in front of your eyes from apparent act of gross medical negligence, friends and family of the victim want medical justice. Unfortunately, it is a common knowledge today that, unlike in the West, doctor-members of the medical council primarily work to shield their errant medical colleagues without caring for the loss of life of an ordinary citizen. The idea of violence against doctors is simply unimaginable in the Western Countries including USA and UK because medical councils in these countries (composed of doctor and non-doctor members) investigate complaints against doctors in an impartial and transparent manner and routinely suspend/cancel license of the negligent doctors. There is no need for the ordinary citizens in these countries to take law into their own hands in a futile attempt to find medical justice by physical violence against doctors/hospitals as in India. No new law to put the victim’s friends/families in jail for their momentary lose of control under acute grief and lack of hope for justice in the medical council after losing their loved one from gross medical negligence cannot be an effective solution to prevent attacks on doctors. Compassion and proper understanding from victim’s perspectives are necessary to eradicate the social evils of medical negligence and violence against doctors. But will the examiners in Lucknow give appropriate credit for this answer to the M.D. candidates?
In a stunning development during hearing of a PIL filed by PBT seeking court’s permission to exhume the body of 6-month old baby and perform post-mortem to help in search of justice, Calcutta High Court division bench presided by the chief justice said that they may allow the writ petition provided PBT makes an advance deposit of Rs. 10 lakh which will be returned only if it is proven that this death involved medical negligence. Akshay Ghosh, a poor man from Asansol (200 km from Kolkata) whose 6-month old daughter, Kushi Ghosh, died last March at HLG Hospital in Asansol from alleged gross medical negligence after an injection was given the child, recently came to PBT seeking help to find justice. The HLG Hospital denied all charges of medical negligence and tried to botch up medical records. In order to find the cause of death, PBT moved a PIL with supporting opinion from forensic expert seeking exhumation and post-mortem of the baby. Although post-mortem after almost three months of death provides no guarantee that the exact cause of death may be identified for obvious decomposition of the body, there is some chance that the cause may become clear following the post-mortem. But post-mortem report may at most be useful as a piece of supporting evidence. Proving a case of “medical negligence” before the court of law requires many such supporting evidences and testimonies from the witnesses. Is it possible for PBT, a purely charitable organization working selflessly to help the hapless victims of medical negligence find justice, to put up Rs. 10 lakh in advance with a guarantee that “medical negligence” will be proven in the court of law? Nobody can be prejudiced with exhumation and post-mortem of Kushi Ghosh and her unfortunate parents also provided written submission requesting the court to allow exhumation and post-mortem of their deceased child. So why to impose this heavy financial burden to a bona fide NGO like PBT before the court may allow their PIL to exhume the body of Kushi and perform post-mortem examination?
PBT sent a legal notice today to the Bidhan Nagar (North) police station demanding immediate registration of FIR to initiate criminal investigation against one Dr. Barun Chakraborty, a gynecologist and Apollo Clinic in Kolkata where Dr. Chakraborty continued treating patients even after his medical registration was suspended by the West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC). Suspension of medical registration by medical council for alleged medical negligence or ethical violation is an extremely rare incidence in India. But even on these rare occasions, nobody, except the guilty doctor and council members, are aware about doctor’s loss of license to see patients. Although clear law exists that medical council must highly publicize in the local press whenever a doctor’s registration is suspended, it never happens in reality as the suspended doctor continue seeing patients unperturbed.
After we came to known about this incidence where Dr. Chakraborty merrily continued his medical practice at well-known Apollo Clinic, PBT lodged a written complaint with the local police station. But the officer-in-charge at Bidhan Nagar (North) police station showed no interest to investigate or register an FIR in brazen violation of the procedures stipulated under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in India. PBT then moved the criminal court that passed an order on 5th May, 2018 directing the police to register PBT’s complaint as an FIR and initiate criminal investigation against the accused doctor and Apollo Clinic. More than one month have passed, Bidhan Nagar (North) police still remains absolutely reluctant to act against the accused Dr. Chakraborty and Apollo Clinic. Repeated attempts by PBT by telephone calls and text messages to obtain information in this matter also received no response from the police as they defy even order from the court in the most contemptuous manner. PBT has submitted a notice today to the police OC/IC and unless police starts the criminal investigation against Dr. Chakraborty and Apollo Clinic soon, PBT may move the court again for deliberate police inaction. Ironically, this case has been highly publicized by the media in Kolkata but WBMC has also remained absolutely silent and did not take any measure against the fact that Dr. Chakraborty and Apollo Clinic brazenly ignored their order of suspension of medical registration.
PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, lodged a private complaint case under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 120b (“criminal conspiracy”) and section 500/501 (“criminal defamation”) against West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) president and a sitting MLA for the ruling TMC party, Dr. Nirmal Maji, for his verbal abusive and defamatory attack after Dr. Saha criticized the council president for trying to perform dialysis of his pet dog using the dialysis machine at a premier government hospital for humans (SSKM Hospital in Kolkata) putting the lives of innocent patients in serious danger. Bankshall Court in Kolkata took cognizance of the criminal complaint against Dr. Maji who surrendered before the court on 7th March, 2018 and was released on bail as the case is still pending for the trial to begin. Response to an RTI application revealed this week that it was the WBMC, and not Dr. Maji, that paid a total of Rs. 45,740/- (forty-five thousand seven hundred forty rupees) as legal fees thus far in defense of Dr. Maji. None of the WBMC officials/members are even remotely involved or made as a respondent/accused in this criminal case that was filed solely against Dr. Maji and another private citizen (editor of a newspaper that carried the defamatory comments by Dr. Maji). This gross abuse of public funds (from WBMC budget) by Dr. Maji to pay for his personal legal expenses through manipulation of the council office as well as through extraneous political influence not only provides strong evidence of gross transgression of legal and moral boundaries in the highest medical regulatory authority in the state, it also underscores presence of wide-spread corruption inside the WBMC. PBT lodged a formal complaint with the state health department today seeking investigation and exemplary disciplinary action against all individuals involved with this sordid state of affairs in the medical council.
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).