Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: While dealing with a Review Petition after Dr. Vandana Das, a young House Surgeon on duty, was killed by an accused in police custody presented in the hospital for treatment while being accompanied by police and others, the Division Bench of Devan Ramachandran* and Dr. Kauser Edappagath, JJ. pulled State authorities while passing orders to ensure protection of medical staff on duty.

The Court said that

“We must say that what we see now is something that we had always feared and had been cautioning the stakeholders persistently and consistently, whenever these matters were considered earlier.”

It further expressed that such shocking incident may erode faith in the system and acknowledged that it is the system's duty to ensure that this does not happen.

Expressing grief and shock over the tragic incident of a doctor succumbing to death at the threshold of a brilliant career as a medical professional, the Court said that

“The least we can do is to place on record our deep-felt condolences to the family, friends, relatives, classmates and colleagues of Dr. Vandana Das, and assure them that her sacrifice will not be forgotten easily.”

The Court commented that the attacker accused of this act was accompanied by the police and others, who could not protect her, and that the reasons need to be explored. The Court also acknowledged the fact that policemen and others were also injured when the accused attacked them with a surgical knife.

The Court refused to immediately accept the Government Pleader's explanation that the protocols were followed, saying that the gruesome act prima facie established a breakdown of the protectional system, which was expected to take care of her, more so in a government hospital. The Court expressed displeasure that

“it was the duty of persons in charge, particularly the police and security personnels to ensure that doctors, Health Care Professionals, Nurses and others, are protected to the maximum extent.”

The Court also pulled the government for promising to consider amendments to Kerala Healthcare Service Persons and Healthcare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2012, when the matter was considered by the Court earlier, since no tangible results were brought apart from a few scheduled meetings.

The Court condemned the State authorities that

“This Court has been passing orders one after the other in the past, including that any attack – be that minor or major — on any doctor, healthcare professional, nurse or such other, should be taken cognizance of by the Police within an hour. As also that the citizens are made aware of the consequences of attack on such personnel through all methods, including the Media. We are still not aware whether these directions have been fully implemented but are sure that we have to be told about it without any further delay.”

To make sure that effective orders are issued in the coming days, the Court ordered the following:

  • Preservation of CCTV visuals of places of occurrence of the incident which led to the unfortunate death of the doctor.

  • Inspection by JMIC at Taluk Hospital and submission of report the very next day.

  • Application of every order passed in the instant case and the aforementioned 2012 Act in full force and warrant to every Intern, House Surgeon, Post Graduate student and other persons engaged in the Health Science Education.

  • Implementation of all the Court orders in its letter and spirit as far as such sections are also concerned.

  • Online appearance of State Police Chief and submission of a report with respect to the incident

The Court prima facie assumed that protocols ensuring that Magistrates are not attacked when such persons are presented before them, will require to be put in place even in the case of production of accused/persons in the custody of the police before doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals.

[Kerala Private Hospitals Association v. Advocate Sabu P. Joseph, 2023 SCC OnLine Ker 3063, Order dated 10-5-2023]

Ed. Note: In a recent incident, a 23-year-old house surgeon in Kottarakkara was brutally stabbed to death by a teacher while he was being treated at the Kottarakkara Government Taluk Hospital. On 11-5-2023, the Court listed the instant matter for hearing on 23-5-2023. As per reports, the attacker who stabbed Kerala Doctor has been remanded in custody for 14 days.

Order by: Justice Devan Ramachandran

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioners: Senior Advocate Syam Divan, Advocate K. Anand

For Respondents: Senior Advocate Dr. S. Gopakumaran Nair, Advocate SURAJ T. Elenjikkal, Advocate M. Gopikrishnan Nambiar, Advocate K. John Mathai, Advocate Joson Manavalan, Advocate Kuryan Thomas, Advocate Paulose C. Abraham, Advocate Jai Mohan, Advocate Raja Kannan, Senior Government Pleader S. Kannan, Advocate P. Sreekumar

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