Disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, was caught red-handed by the CBI on 22nd April, 2010 for taking a huge bribe from a private medical college allegedly in exchange of granting MCI recognition to admit MBBS students. Seven years later, criminal trial against Dr. Desai is still delayed on one ground or another as Desai roams free on bail. During this long delay in the justice delivery system, Desai also managed to recapture the coveted post of World Medical Association (WMA) president (with help from his unprincipled medical cronies in MCI/IMA) by virtue of which, the biggest medical mafia in Indian medicine attends conferences and delivers lectures on medical ethics and good medical practice. This is the irony for the “good” doctors and millions of hapless patients of India.
When the criminal case against Desai came up for hearing last month before the CBI court in Patiala House in Delhi, one of the co-accused in the same corruption case, Mr. J.P. Singh (who was allegedly involved as a conduit for bribing Dr. Desai) was allowed to travel to USA/UK on a personal ground and as such, the case was adjourned again to 25th May, 2017. The long and sordid saga of Dr. Ketan Desai and deep-rooted corruption in the MCI and IMA has not only damaged credibility of the entire medical community in India, it has also caused further erosion in public trust on doctors. We hope that the CBI will work harder to bring justice to all the corrupt individuals including Dr. Desai who are responsible for the present abysmal condition of medical education and healthcare delivery system in India.
Lately, Indian Medical Association (IMA), largest doctors’ club and other doctors’ groups across India have started strong movements by crippling hospital services through “doctors’ strike” to protest against physical assaults on doctors and hospital services causing endless pain and suffering for countless innocent patients. The powerful medical lobbies have also exerted pressure on state and central governments to implement new criminal laws seeking non-bailable warrants and up to 14 years of imprisonment for any relatives/friends of the alleged victim of “medical negligence” accused of any attacks on doctor and hospital vandalism. Some states like West Bengal have already enacted such draconian laws only to protect members of the medical profession.
PBT has never condoned any form of physical violence against doctors and hospitals. We also want that government must be able to provide adequate protection against physical attacks against any citizen and members of all profession including doctors. The Code of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Indian Penal Code (IPC) already have several legal provisions for criminal prosecution against physical violence and destruction of property. In addition, civil laws also provide added protection against any loss due to physical destruction of life and property. What is the justification to make new laws only for protection of our healers? Under Section 304A of CrPC, when a doctor is found guilty for causing death of a patient due to gross medical negligence, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for up to 2 years – ironically, no doctor has ever been sentenced to jail for 2 years in Indian medical history.
Now IMA wants new criminal law to put a deeply aggrieved and otherwise peaceful family member of an alleged victim of medical negligence in jail for 14 years even if he makes a minimal threat after witnessing his loved one dying from reckless treatment and losing mental momentary control. Doctors in India also need to think why incidence of doctor bashing or hospital vandalism is simply unimaginable in developed countries like USA and UK. It is because people in USA/UK have trust on their medical regulatory system as medical councils in the West routinely held many doctors guilty for medical negligence and take stringent disciplinary action by canceling their medical registration. In sharp contrast, Medical Council of India (MCI) and state medical councils in India are riddled with corruption that function only shield their errant medical colleagues without caring for the lives of the defenseless patients as virtually no doctor is found guilty by the doctor-only members of the medical councils in India. A repot written by PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, on this burning issue is published in this week’s British Medical Journal (BMD) (see below)
BMJ (Mar 30, 2017) doctor attacks
In a desperate attempt to suppress information about Ethics Committee investigation of complaints of medical negligence and status of investigation of complaint against disgraced Dr. Ketan Desai, Medical Council of India (MCI) moved a frivolous writ petition in Delhi High Court challenging the recent order passed by Central Information Commission (CIC) directing MCI to provide PBT all information in regard to Ethics Committee investigation of complaints against doctors and long-standing investigation of Dr. Desai whose license was suspended by the MCI in 2010. The CIC passed this order on February 2, 2017 directing MCI to provide the requested information within 3 weeks after MCI refused to provide any information after PBT filed an application under RTI Act, 2005 seeking the relevant information for public interest. Instead of coming clean in a transparent manner to disclose the information as directed by the CIC, MCI obtained an ex perte stay from Delhi High Court on the ground that Dr. Kunal Saha, PBT president, is a USA citizen and as such, has no right to obtain information under RTI Act, 2005.
Ironically, the RTI application seeking information from MCI was not filed by Dr. Saha, but by PBT vide an RIT application signed on behalf of PBT by Mr. Ranjit Sarkar, a PBT governing body member and resident of Kolkata. Dr. Saha only appeared and argued the case before CIC during the final hearing of this matter in January, 2017. Thus, MCI has willfully misguided the court to obtain this stay order in order to avoid disclosure of their continued support for the disgraced ex-MCI head, Dr. Ketan Desai and also to suppress the botched investigation of numerous complaints of “medical negligence” by MCI Ethics Committee where hardly any doctor is found guilty. In any event, in a similar case (refusals to provide information under RTI Act by West Bengal Medical Council to Dr. Kunal Saha on his citizenship status, Supreme Court categorically held in 2007 that Dr. Saha has right to obtain RTI information as an overseas citizen of India). PBT will move against this vengeful act by the highest medical regulatory body and demand exemplary punishment against MCI.
In another overtly uncaring move for the lives of the defenseless patients, thousands of doctors in government and private hospitals across Mumbai started strike and mass casual leave bringing the entire healthcare delivery system to its knees and causing endless misery and death of at least 57 patients, according to published report. This “doctors’ strike” was initiated in demand of increased security after alleged assault on a doctor by aggrieved patient-party. PBT has long held an wavering view that doctor bashing and hospital vandalism cannot be condoned under any condition, even when there is ample evidence of gross medical negligence, because one wrong can never be the cure for another wrong. But PBT also firmly believes that doctors have no legal or moral right to go on a “strike” holding the innocent patients at ransom. Moreover, “doctors’ strike” clearly violates the MCI Code of Ethics & Regulations, 2002 and it clearly goes against the fundamental principles of the Hippocratic Oath that all doctors must take before starting to care for the ailing citizens.
In response to our PIL against doctors’ strike, Supreme Court of India passed a historic judgment on 15th November, 2014 (W.P. No. 253/2012; PBT vs. MCI & Ors.) in which the Apex Court held that strike by doctors may be deemed as “negligence” and the striking doctors are liable for disciplinary action by the medical council. In view of this categorical observations made by the SC, PBT has submitted a formal complaint with the MCI and Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) requesting them to take exemplary disciplinary action against the striking doctors failing which PBT will move the appropriate court seeking contempt against the MCI and MMC. While IMA has defended the striking doctors without caring for the loss of innocent patients’ lives, Indian medical community needs to ponder why unfortunate incidence of doctor bashing by irate crowd and “doctors’ strike” are unheard of in developed countries like UK and USA. Until the common people are provided with a truly impartial and honest platform (e.g. medical council or Commission) where they feel that they have a chance of finding justice against the errant medicos, occasional attacks on doctors/hospitals by otherwise peaceful and law-abiding citizens who lose control of their minds under acute grief after witnessing their loved dying from reckless treatment are not likely to end anytime soon.
Riding on a populist message against medical negligence and unethical practice by private doctors and hospitals, Mamata Banerjee recently rushed a new healthcare Bill through the assembly (W.B. Clinical Establishments Registration, Regulation and Transparency Act, 2017) to entrap public sympathy, she disclosed today the names of members of the supremely powerful “Commission” that, as per these new provisions, will decide allegations by all aggrieved patients. Shockingly, Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, convicted by the Supreme Court for his unethical behavior and gross medical negligence causing death of Anuradha Saha, has been chosen by Mamata Banerjee as a senior medical member of the “Commission”. In fact, in Anuradha Saha case, Apex Court has not only held Dr. Mukherjee as the most “reckless” physician, it has also severely criticized him for his unethical conduct and dubbed his conduct as “unbecoming of a doctor“. Although it is no secret that Banerjee government has been staunching backing Dr. Mukherjee to rebuild his badly tarnished public image for many years (Dr. Mukherjee was also chosen as the “chief adviser” for the Bengal health department in 2012 against which a PIL is presently pending before the Apex Court),it is truly startling to find that the state government would go this far to select the biggest “negligent” physician to investigate complaints of medical negligence. This brazen selection by Mamata Banerjee also undermines sanctity of the Supreme Court and violates Article 144 of Indian Constitution that has mandated that all authorities, civil and judicial, must always act in aid of the Supreme Court. PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha has submitted an urgent memorandum with Bengal chief minister today urging her to immediately remove Dr. Mukherjee from this Commission. Dr. Saha has also said that if Banerjee government remains silent, he will take this matter to the court for ends of justice. It is a shame that the self-proclaimed government of Ma, Mati and Manush (mother, land and humans) is truly hoodwinking the ordinary people (manush) with bogus hope for justice against medical neglgience.
The Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017 passed last week by Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal to rein in private hospitals and doctors has not only generated a great deal of public interest in West Bengal because the Bill has several strong provisions aimed at curbing medical negligence and unethical practice by doctors in private hospitals including possible charge for “culpable homicide” by an independent Commission in the event of gross medical negligence, it has also exposed the shameless stance of IMA which is solely dependent on their political affiliation but nothing to do with welfare for the patients or improving the badly tarnished doctor-patient relationship. The Bill has been sharply criticized by Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, president of national IMA in Delhi which is known to be heavily populated by doctors belonging to the BJP. In sharp contrast, IMA leaders in Kolkata, all of whom are backed by the Mamata Banerjee’s ruling Trinomool party, have nothing but high praise for the same Bill (see front-page news in The Telegraph below). The true color of IMA, the largest doctor-only club in India, is crystal clear from this sharply opposing views of the same Bill. Our doctor-leaders have no principles or moral values as, depending on the day, they would not hesitate to take position whatever serves their selfish personal and political purposes.
Telegraph (March 7, 2017)
A much hyped Bill (W.B. Clinical Establishment Registration, Regulations, Transparency Bill, 2017) was passed today in West Bengal assembly by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinomool government claiming that this new law would rein in unethical practice and medical negligence in the state. Ms. Banerjee has also made boisterous claims that this is a truly remarkable Bill that will form a “model” for the rest of the country and bring “historic” changes in practice of medicine. But is this Bill a truly new innovation by the Trinomool government and will it really bring any change in the crumbling medical system in West Bengal or this is just another gimmick manufactured by a political leader to hoodwink ordinary people? Several questions must be raised in view of this new Bill:
1) Is this Bill truly new as claimed by the CM? The answer is a categorical “NO”. Previous Left-front govt. in West Bengal made the W.B. Clinical Establishment Act (CEA), 2010 which is virtually similar to this new Bill except that the new Bill has recommended to raise the amount of compensation to be paid to the victim’s family. The problem with the previous CEA, 2010 is that the laws were never implemented by both the Left-front and Trinomool governments under influence of the powerful doctors’ lobby (IMA).
2) If Banerjee govt. is truly interested to go after the unscrupulous doctors and hospitals, why they remained virtually silent for the past 6 years as hapless patients continued to die from rampant medical negligence across West Bengal?
3) The Bill proposes to form a new regulatory “Commission” that would investigate and take action against the errant medicos. Why do we need a new regulatory “Commission” – the state already has one for more than 100 years which is known as “West Bengal Medical Council” (WBMC). The WBMC is a den of corruption under the control of doctors belonging to the Trinomool party as the record over the past 6 years would demonstrate without any doubt. Mamata Banerjee, being both CM and Health Minister has kept a blind eye to PBT’s and countless other medical victims repeated pleas for justice.
4) Perhaps most importantly, the new Bill is applicable only for private hospitals and even if patients die from reckless medical malpractice in any government hospital, the Bill will do nothing against the delinquent doctors and hospitals. Banerjee government has claimed that 70% of state population seek medical help in government hospitals because they can’t afford the high price of treatment in private hospitals. So, do the lives of the poor people have no value in the eyes of this government of “Ma, Mathi and Manush”?
In a historic judgment delivered on 2nd February, 2017, the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed the Medical Council of India (MCI) to provide all information pertaining to the case against disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, and to put up detail of the minutes of the Ethics Committee meetings on investigation of complaints or medical negligence or ethical violations by doctors in India on MCI website within a maximum period of three weeks. This case was filed by the PBT under the RTI Act, 2005 after repeated requests for information were denied by the MCI. After more than four weeks, MCI has brazenly flouted CIC’s order and refused to provide any information despite repeated reminders from the PBT. When PBT tried to contact MCI Secretary, Dr. Reena Nayaar, who is also the Appellate Authority for RTI Act in MCI, she refused to answer any question and disconnected the phone. PBT has lodged a new appeal with the CIC today bringing this deplorable act by the MCI and requesting the highest information commission in India to take exemplary punitive action against MCI and Dr. Reena Nayaar for their deliberate and contemptuous behavior.
Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, took the stage yesterday with Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee, the most notorious and reckless physician in India as held by the Supreme Court of India in Anuradha Saha death case, standing next to her to declare that a new “Commission” will be formed to investigate complaints of negligent and unethical treatment by private hospitals in Kolkata. The Trinomool party supremo, Mamata Banerjee, is also the health minister of West Bengal for the past six years and complaints of malpractice and unethical activities (such as over billing, commission) as complaints against doctors and hospitals have piled up in state medical council and health department. Instead of taking action of cleansing the existing regulatory body, i.e.. medical council which is virtually run by doctors belonging to her party, Banerjee’s promise to establish a new regulatory body to help the victims of medical negligence appears to be nothing but a hog wash for the Bengal people. Ironically, a historic case against Mamata Banerjee is currently pending before the Supreme Court for final hearing on 23rd March, 2017 for alleged helping to promote Dr. Mukherjee in candid violation of Article 144 of Indian Constitution that stipulates that all courts and civil authorities must always obey the Supreme Court and act in the aid of the Apex Court.
Mr. M.N. Krishnamani, renowned Sr. Advocate and four times president of the Supreme Court Bar Association has passed away from sudden cardiac failure earlier this week in Bangalore. Apart from his numerous noteworthy legal performances in the Supreme Court and High Courts over the past almost four decades, Mr. Krishnamani was given the prestigious Padmashree Award last year for his outstanding contribution to the society. He has been a long-standing legal counsel for the PBT and appeared in many historic public interest litigations (PILs) over the past 17 years that have already brought major changes toward improving the standard of healthcare and medical education in India. Mr. Krishnamani also appeared on behalf of many hapless victims of medical negligence including the historic case of Anuradha Saha. It will be difficult to find any attorney in India who is more efficient and knowledgable in cases involving “medical negligence” and Constitution of India. Over the years, Mr. Krishnamani also became a mentor and close friend of PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha. He visited Dr. Saha in USA on several occasions including a trip last summer (see picture of Mr. Krishnamani and Dr. Saha below at Disney World in Florida). PBT and ordinary people of India will deeply miss the unselfish contribution by the most kind and truly devoted senior advocate and social reformer, Mr. M.N. Krishnamani.
According to the information obtained from the special bench (Prevention of Corruption Act) in the CBI Patiala House Court in New Delhi for hearing of the criminal case for alleged bribery and corruption against disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai, the case was adjourned today (February 6) to 23rd February, 2017 for next hearing for “consideration of renewal of passport” (see court Order below). This historic criminal case against Dr. Desai started almost 7 years ago after Desai (then sitting MCI president) was caught red-handed by the CBI in a sting operation in April, 2010 for taking a bribe of Rs. 2 crore from a private medical college allegedly in exchange of granting MCI recognition to start new MBBS course. After staying in jail for six months, Desai was released on bail in October, 2010. As the case has languished in the Indian judicial system, Desai managed to promote himself to the prestigious post of World Medical Association (WMA) president last year through blatant lies by several senior MCI and IMA members that all criminal charges against Dr. Desai have been dropped by the Indian authority evan as his medical registration remains suspended by the MCI.
CBI Case of Ketan Desai (Order Feb 6, 2017)
In a landmark decision that may have far-reaching consequences in our fight against medical corruption, Central Information Commission (CIC) has delivered scathing criticism of the Medical Council of India (MCI) for their deliberate attempt to suppress information related to a wide-range of healthcare issues including investigation of complaints of “medical negligence”, appointment of Inspectors for medical colleges and ongoing investigation of disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai (see the CIC Judgment below). This matter emerged after PBT sought information (under RTI Act, 2005) from MCI about their failure to upload Ethics Committee investigation of doctors since 2013 and their reluctance to provide any response to critical questions like the status of medical license of Dr. Ketan Desai or about the qualification of medical inspectors hired by the MCI to inspect medical colleges for approval or disapproval to teach medical courses.
After MCI provided blatantly evasive response to the specific questions posed by the PBT, appeal was filed with the CIC against the sinister role of the MCI. PBT President, Dr. Kunal Saha, personally appeared to argue this matter on behalf of PBT before the CIC during his recent trip to India and CIC has delivered this historic judgment today. Almost on every issue raised by the PBT, CIC has agreed with the PBT and directed MCI to come clean and provide the answers within 3 weeks time. Better transparency with investigation of complaints against doctors including the more than 6 years long investigation of disgraced Ketan Desai (who is still free on bail, waiting for criminal trial on serious charges for bribery) will go a long way toward removing the rampant corruption in India’s healthcare delivery and medical education systems.
MCI-RTI (CIC Judgment) Feb. 2, 2017
While the Modi government has been clamoring for more transparency to build a “clean” Bharat in order to gather public support, a quick glance to the Medical Council of India website (www.mciindia.org) would demonstrate how corruption and non-transparency are still is the name of the game in the highest government body for regulation of healthcare and medical education. Complaints against doctors for medical negligence and ethical violation are supposed to be investigated and appropriate disciplinary action against the guilty doctors to be taken by members of the MCI Ethics Committee.
It is a common knowledge today that despite frequent news of horrific death of patients from alleged medical negligence, hardly any doctors are held “guilty” by the MCI. Even more shocking, no information is shown whatsoever on MCI website about the proceedings (“minutes”) of the MCI Ethics Committee meetings held since 2013. Although detail minutes of the Ethics Committee meetings were regularly posted on MCI website for public view for 2011, 2012 and 2013, it abruptly stopped on 18th October, 2013. Ironically, the present MCI members (most of whom are well-known cronies of disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai) came to power in December, 2013. So, it is obvious that the present MCI does not want to show what goes on behind closed doors to investigate their allegedly negligent and unethical medical colleagues. Do we need to explain why? Will the Modi government and health minister, Mr. J.P. Nadda, wake up and take immediate measures to cleanse the obvious corruption inside the highest medical regulatory body in India? PBT has already lodged a complaint with the Central Information Commission against this overt non-transparency inside the MCI. Hearing has been concluded on 9th January, 2017 and an important judgment is awaited.
What is viewed as a truly extraordinary move by any court of law and especially the highest court of the land, Supreme Court bench of chief justice Mr. J.S. Khehar and Mr. D.Y. Chandrachud refused to admit a special leave petition (SLP) filed by PBT president Dr. Kunal Saha against the West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) for not taking any disciplinary action against Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee who was primarily responsible for the wrongful death of Dr. Saha’s wife, Anuradha Saha. Dr. Mukherjee was held for gross medical negligence by the SC in 2009 and another bench of the Apex Court awarded the highest ever compensation in 2013 against Dr. Mukherjee and two other doctors as well as AMRI hospital in Kolkata. The Medical Council of India (MCI) also found Dr. Mukherjee guilty for “professional misconduct” and directed the state council to suspend Dr. Mukherjee’s medical license to practice in 2011. But WBMC has maintained that there was nothing wrong with Dr. Mukherjee’s treatment and refused to take any disciplinary action against him despite the Apex Court and MCI’s direction.
Dr. Saha appeared in person before the SC on Friday and made a compassionate plea that the state medical council is doing a great disservice to the society and unless SC steps in to prevent this blatant wrong by the doctors-only members of WBMC, more Anuradhas will continue to die tomorrow. Although the CJI expressed sympathy for Dr. Saha and agreed that no amount of punishment can compensate his loss, the Apex Court also made an incredible jump of logic that Dr. Saha should refrain from fighting more litigations on this case because the guilty doctors have already been punished and most shockingly, the CJI declared that Anuradha would not “rest in peace” as long as Dr. Saha continues legal battle against the doctors who were responsible for her death. The front-page story published in Telegraph has painted an accurate picture what happened in the courtroom on Friday (see below). The court did not get into the vital question that was raised in this SLP, i.e. What happens when a doctor is found negligent by the court of law but the medical council finds nothing wrong with the treatment? Did such action by the WBMC not undermine the sanctity of the Apex Court in clear violation of Article 144 of Indian Constitution that all civil and judicial bodies in India must work in aid of the Supreme Court? Dr. Saha has said that he would file a Review petition against this SC decision.
Telegraph (Jan 14, 2014)
In a historic and unprecedented order passed against Dr. Alok Khan, an neurosurgeon from Kolkata accused of causing death of a patient from a botched brain surgery, division bench presided by Justice D.K. Jain, president of the National Consumer Forum (NCDRC), has directed Dr. Khan and the nursing home (owned by Dr. Khan) to pay a penalty of Rs. 1 lakh “for their absence before the State Commission as well as for the delay in the complaint attaining finality” (see the NCDRC Judgment below).
Shamali Sikdar, widow of the alleged victim, came to PBT in 2012 seeking help in her quest for justice after her husband died following a botched surgery for a non-malignant brain tumor. Dr. Kunal Saha, PBT president, argued before the State Commission in West Bengal on behalf of the victim while the accused doctor delayed the proceedings for years by not accepting legal notice from the court. The State Commission eventually delivered an ex perte verdict last year awarding Rs. 25.5 lakh (including Rs. 50,000 as legal cost) against Dr. Khan against which the doctor moved the NCDRC. While remanding the case back to the State Commission to give an opportunity to the accused doctor to put up his defense, NCDRC has also directed that the matter must be completed within a period of 6 months. Further, considering PBT’s benevolent attempt to pro bono help for the victim and Dr. Saha’s situation, NCDRC has also directed that the State Commission should consider the fact that Dr. Saha is generally a resident of USA while fixing the hearing dates.