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Karnataka HC refuses to quash sexual harassment case against Bengaluru doctor

The doctor said he was only performing his duty placing his stethoscope on the patient’s breast as he did to other patients. He also refuted claims that he asked the complainant to take off her clothes.
Last Updated : 13 June 2024, 20:30 IST

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka High Court has refused to quash proceedings against a Bengaluru doctor on a sexual harassment case filed by a patient.

The court dismissed the doctor’s petition, saying there was, prima facie, a case under IPC Section 354A (sexual harassment).

The complainant visited the petitioner’s hospital in JP Nagar, experiencing chest pain. The doctor recommended an ECG and a chest X-ray, asking her to share the results via WhatsApp. After reviewing the report, the doctor instructed her to visit his private clinic on March 21, 2024, at 2 pm.

During the examination at the clinic, the doctor allegedly touched her inappropriately while using a stethoscope to check her heartbeat. The complainant informed her family, and a complaint was filed with the Puttenahalli police the next day under IPC Section 354A.

The doctor said he was only performing his duty placing his stethoscope on the patient’s breast as he did to other patients. He also refuted claims that he asked the complainant to take off her clothes.

Justice M Nagaprasanna referred to the guidelines established by the Indian Psychiatric Society Task Force regarding sexual boundaries for doctors published on the Indian Medical Council’s website.

“The guidelines that would become germane to be noticed are that, whenever a female patient is being examined by a male practitioner, the guidelines direct that it should be ensured that it would be done in the presence of a female person, particularly at the time of physical examination,” the court said.

“There are several other guidelines laid down by the said task force including that the doctor should ensure that they do not exploit the doctor-patient relationship for personal, social, business, or sexual gain. The petitioner-doctor has, prima facie, violated all the above. Therefore, an investigation in the least, should be permitted to be continued.”

The court said the materials on record, including the averments in the complaint, would undoubtedly become the ingredients of IPC Section 354A.

“A doctor by profession has access to the body of the patient. If the access is utilised for the purpose of healing, it is an altogether different circumstance and a divine act. If it is utilised for some other feeling, it would clearly become advances, which would attract Section 354A of the IPC. A doctor should remember that the patients seek their help when they are in a vulnerable state — when they are sick, when they are needy and when they are uncertain about the needs to be done,” Justice Nagaprasanna said.

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Published 13 June 2024, 20:30 IST

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