HC wants to know govt's powers to bar docs' strike

HC wants to know govt's powers to bar docs' strike

The High Court on Monday directed the State government to submit the details of legal provisions and powers vested with it to prevent doctors from striking work.

A division bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice R B Budihal gave the order on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition which seeks action against doctors who recently struck work and resigned en masse. Lashing out at the government as well as the doctors, the bench orally observed, “Playing with the lives of people cannot be tolerated.”

The petition, filed by a Bangalore lawyer N P Amruthesh, urges the court to declare the strike illegal and that the doctors’ registration certificates be cancelled and the Essential Services and Maintenance Act (Esma) invoked against them.

The petitioner argued that despite repeated orders of the High Court to take action against the striking doctors, the government had not made any effort towards that end.
The doctors have been violating the court orders by protesting no less than five times since 1999, while patients have been dying. Even during the recent strike, three patients died because of unavailability of healthcare.

The lawyer also referred to the doctors’ defence of their action that they did not violate any rule by converging in Bangalore to resign en masse. He said the medical practitioners could have resigned in their respective places of posting instead of coming all the way to the State capital and putting patients’ lives in jeopardy. This amounts to violation and action can be taken against them. They cannot refuse to work, he asserted.

The chief justice observed that the government was equally responsible as it remained mute about the doctors’ action and delayed responding to their demands. “Doctors are not slaves of the government. The government should not have responded to their resignations at the last minute.”

Government counsel R Devdas submitted that it was not a last-minute action as the government was scrutinising the resignations because some doctors had entered into solemn bonds to work for ten years since they could complete their postgraduate studies, while others were facing inquiries. But the bench cut him short, “We are not concerned about other things. We are bothered only about medical service to the common man. Medical service should not be stopped even for an hour. You have to ensure it.”

The bench directed the government to come out with legal provisions to ensure the doctors do not go on strike. “If the medical service is stopped, it amounts to violation of human rights.”

Hearing adjourned

The High Court adjourned the hearing of a petition by Namma Bangalore Foundation, Samaj Parivartan Samudaya and others seeking clearance of the encroachment of government land, along with a direction to file an affidavit regarding the encroachment cleared.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice R B Budihal directed to file an affidavit after the government submitted that over 10,000 acres of encroachment had been cleared so far in the State.

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