Two days after 4,500 doctors in Maharashtra withdrew their indefinite strike, the dean of Government-run J J Hospital in Mumbai on Monday urged the Bombay High Court to hear him before passing an order setting up a grievances committee to probe allegations against him.
The doctors, demanding the transfer of dean Dr T P Lahane, had struck work last week on a call given by Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) which had protested against his decision to disallow resident doctors from performing operations in theatres. The court was hearing a petition filed by activist Afak Mandaviya challenging the doctors' strike saying that patients were facing inconvenience and some of them died as there was no one to provide medical help in emergency cases.
When the petition came up for hearing today, advocate Jagtap Shekhar told the bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka that he was appearing for Lahane and his client wanted the high court to hear him before passing an order. The bench told the petitioner that it would hear Lahane before passing an order and asked him to implead the hospital dean as a respondent in the petition. The matter was deferred until tomorrow.
The petition had earlier sought immediate withdrawal of the strike by doctors as patients were put to hardship and ran the risk of losing their lives because of non-availability of medical services due to the agitation.
It was agreed by the parties on April 9 that former Chief Justice Mohit Shah or Justice (Retd) D K Deshmukh would be part of the grievances redressal committee probing the allegations against Lahane.
During the hearing on Monday before another bench led by Justice Abhay Oka, MARD submitted that they were objecting to the two names which were shortlisted on April 9. The bench reprimanded MARD for changing their stance and said "you were present in the court on Saturday (April 9) when these names were discussed and had also agreed to them...we will not tolerate that you have a grievance now...you cannot dictate terms to the court."
On April 9, the judges had asked MARD to call off their strike forthwith in public interest so that patients do not suffer. Accordingly, the strike was called off on the same day. The bench also questioned the doctors and MARD for going on an indefinite strike without approaching the grievance redressal mechanism.
The resident doctors of JJ's Ophthalmology department had complained of mental harassment by Lahane who is also the head of the department.
In a letter to the state Medical Education Minister and the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), MARD doctors at J J Hospital have sought Lahane's transfer with immediate effect. The high court had on April 9 asked Maharashtra government to ensure that the doctors, who had gone on stike, are not victimised and that they got their stipend during the agitation period.
To this, MARD replied that they had not approached the grievance redressal mechanism because T P Lahane, against whom they were protesting, was part of the grievance redressal mechanism committee. The doctors said they wanted an independent committee to hear their grievances and suggested the name of retired Chief Justice Mohit Shah or Retd Justice D K Deshmukh to chair the committee.
However, on Monday they objected to the two retired Judges from being part of the grievances committee, following which the high court warned them against indulging in such practices.
Meanwhile, the court has asked the high court registry to find out whether the two judges would be available for conducting a probe into allegations against Lahane. The matter would be heard on April 12.