‘Doctors will be scared to give opinion if I am punished’

FP

As a 23-year-old criminal legal battle between one of India's most eminent oncologists and a convictional bureaucrat enters its final round in the Supreme Court, 79-year-old Dr Praful Desai says he is scared for his fraternity if the Bombay High Court's order is upheld as doctors would be afraid to give their opinion about patients under treatment.

Speaking to The Indian Express, in what he called his most candid interview since retired IAS officer P C Singhi, 84, accused him of medical negligence that led to the death of his wife in 1989, Desai, who has stood his ground for over two decades said, "I will not lose faith in the judiciary. This is my last effort. The truth must prevail".

Desai, however, has had no luck in the courts so far. A city court held him guilty of negligence in 2011. The court had ordered Desai, a Padma Bhushan awardee and former director of Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), to pay Rs 50,000 to Singhi and as punishment asked him to remain in court until it rose in the evening.

Desai challenged this in the Bombay High Court. However, on October 14, it upheld the order in a harshly-worded judgment. Desai said the court had given him time to appeal in the Supreme Court, but his special leave petition could not be filed by November 19. On November 20, he deposited Rs 50,000 in the city court and sat there from 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm.

"It hurt me very much. I had to swallow my pride but I did it because I am a law-abiding citizen. The magistrate's order took effect after my time to appeal expired on November 19. But my SLP is still pending," Desai said. "This does not prejudice my case before the Supreme Court. If I succeed, the magistrate's order will be overruled."

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