Tamil Nadu

No doctor should be punished without following principles of natural justice: HC

The Madras High Court has disapproved of punishment of suspension imposed by Tamil Nadu Medical Council (TNMC) against a gastroenterologist who was only a witness in disciplinary proceedings initiated against another doctor. The court has also insisted the Council lay down a standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure that no doctor gets punished without following the principles of natural justice.

Justice R. Mahadevan wrote: “It is the responsibility of the medical council to proceed against medical practitioners, if there is any breach or violation… At the same time, the council also owes a duty to protect the medical practitioners who are rendering yeomen service for the betterment of the general public from the onslaught of frivolous complaints and also from proceeding against them in a hasty manner.”

The orders were passed while allowing a writ petition filed by gastroenterologist P. Basumani who had put in 35 years of practice. The judge quashed an order passed by TNMC on May 4 removing the petitioner’s name from the Medical Register for a period of six months. He held that the petitioner had been punished without being afforded an opportunity to defend himself effectively by cross examining the witnesses and so on.

The judge pointed out that the writ petitioner had actually treated a patient in a private hospital in Chennai from September 27, 2015 till the latter’s death on October 11, 2015. After his death, the patient’s daughter lodged a complaint with Medical Council of India (now National Medical Commission) accusing a Coimbatore-based doctor Radhakrishnan of having issued a false fitness certificate for her father when he was actually hospitalised.

According to the complainant, her father’s immovable properties worth ₹50 crore had been transferred to the name of Dr. Radhakrishnan’s son-in-law on the basis of the false medical fitness certificate. The woman also lodged a police complaint. When the police called for details from the Chennai-based private hospital, its medical superintendent wrote back saying that the patient was conscious on October 8, 2015.

However, during the inquiry by TNMC, Dr. Basumani stated that the patient was not conscious on October 8, 2015 and he was not oriented to understand the legal documents. On the basis of such submission, the TNMC had decided to remove his name from the medical register for the alleged misconduct of having given false information to the police and having facilitated the accused to escape from the clutches of law.

Disagreeing with such a stand taken by the council, Justice Mahadevan held that there was absolutely no ground for taking disciplinary action against the petitioner. The judge pointed out that the reply to the police was given by the medical superintendent and not the petitioner. Secondly, “no opportunity was provided to the petitioner to defend the allegation and the same is totally in violation of the principles of natural justice,” he said.

After finding that there were no clear-cut guidelines for conducting disciplinary inquiries against doctors, the judge issued a set of 12 suggestions to the TNMC on conducting such inquiries. He said that a SOP could be formulated listing out every small detail right from the issuance of show cause notices to the constitution of the inquiry committees and how they should proceed with inquiring into complaints received against doctors.

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Printable version | Dec 8, 2021 5:19:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/no-doctor-should-be-punished-without-following-principles-of-natural-justice-hc/article37182396.ece

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