Shut down hospitals if govt can't provide security to doctors: High Court

Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court. Photo: Manorama

Kochi: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday slammed the state government for its failure to safeguard healthworkers on duty in the state.

The rebuke came after a man — an accused in custody brought in by the police for treatment of his injuries — killed a 25-year-old woman doctor at the Kottarakkara taluk hospital.

“Why don't the government shut down the hospitals, if it can't guarantee the safety of doctors?" the court asked. "Kerala has been witnessing strange incidents which no other state in the country had reported ever,” the bench observed.

The bench comprising Justices Devan Ramachandran and Kausar Edappagat considered the matter in a special sitting on Wednesday.

The High Court questioned the security of doctors in government hospitals and pointed out police lapses in controlling the accused in their custody.

"It is not for the court to tell you how to provide security (to health workers)," the court said.

Justice Devan Ramachandran asked whether security systems meant to prevent such attacks were in place.

Dr Vandana Das
Dr Vandana Das was stabbed by Sandeep, a school teacher at the Kottarakara taluk hospital. Photo: Screengrab/ Manorama News

"The (2022) government order leaving the accused alone in the care of a doctor is unfortunate," the court said.

The bench asked the state police chief to appear online before the court on Thursday to seek explanation. The matter will be taken up again at 10.15 am on Thursday.

Last December, the High Court had expressed concern over such incidents. The court had directed the authorities to register an FIR within an hour of any incident. “The government should ensure security. Are there no police aid posts in hospitals? There are 137 cases this year. Ten cases occur every month,” the court had observed.

“Every attack will have to be taken cognisance of by the Station House Officer of the police station concerned not later than one hour from the time on which it is reported to him," the court said.

“This can be under the Special Law applicable, or under the Indian Penal Code; but an FIR will be needed to be registered within the afore time frame, which alone will ensure that the perpetrator/s understands that action is swift and quick", it said.

The court gave this directive while suo motu impleading the State police chief in a case related to the attacks against the doctors and healthcare professionals in the State hospitals.

Dr Vandana Das was stabbed to death by a school teacher while he was being treated at the Kottarakkara taluk hospital. She was a house surgeon at the hospital. Vandana was a final year MBBS student at Azeezia Institute of Medical Sciences & Research, Kollam.

Minister condemns incident

Meanwhile, Kerala Health Minister Veena George condemned the incident and said the government has a strong stand against attacks on health workers.

"The attack occured in a hospital with security arrangements. The government is working towards strengthening the current law,' the minister said.

In the meantume, the Kerala chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) announced the doctors will go on a massive state-wide strike to protest against the incident. In a statement, KGMOA demanded strict action against perpetrators to prevent the recurrence of such 'diabolical' incidents. It also called for exemplary punishment of attackers so that it will act as a deterrent.

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