Set to rule on strike by docs, HC says patients most important

With conclusion of arguments in a public interest litigation that challenged strikes by doctors, the Delhi High Court, while observing that "patients are the most important elements", on Wednesday said it will very soon give its ruling in the matter related to a strike at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, reserving the matter for judgement, underlined that patient care was of paramount importance and would be given precedence over any other consideration in their ruling.

"We must make it clear that the patients are the most important elements here. Doctors' grievances or any other thing could come only later. We will decide whether the doctors at AIIMS can legally go on a strike or not and if they cannot, what actions should be taken against them under the law," Chief Justice Misra said.

During the hearing, Prashant Bhushan, counsel for petitioner Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) Medical Association, sought a strict order against any such practice at AIIMS. He said punishment to a few doctors could act as a deterrent.

While the AIIMS counsel submitted that they had no records of doctors who resorted to strikes in 2006 and 2007, the petitioner's counsel said an inquiry could be ordered into ascertaining details of such doctors. "And if not all of them, at least the office bearers of the Resident Doctors' Association, which called a strike in July 2006, should be prosecuted to set an example," the counsel said.

Challenging the petition, the counsel for the Resident Doctors' Association argued that AIIMS, as per the 2002 High Court order, had failed to constitute a Permanent Negotiation Machinery in the form of a committee to resolve issues relating to employees, which often caused frictions.

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