KOLKATA: The arrest of a 70-year-old doctor in Kolkata on allegations of molestation earlier this month has worried medical practitioners in the city, who turned out in large numbers to protest today.
Police arrested the doctor after a 21-year-old female patient complained that he had touched her inappropriately, on the pretext of a physical examination, in his office when no one else was present. But despite the facts of the case being far from clear - there are inconsistencies in the complainant's version - the police arrested the senior practitioner, allege protesting doctors.
"You can say we are in a panic. I have to physically examine patients and after this case I am afraid it could be my turn next," said Dr Subhankar Chowdhury, who attended the protests today.
Patients often require a physical examination, which also saves them the costs of additional tests, doctors say.
"We are caught between the devil and the deep sea. If we don't examine properly there is the risk of being accused of negligence. If we do, then we could be accused of molestation. May as well stop work," worried Dr Arun Manglik.
Doctors want the government to make an exception for medical practitioners when it comes to complaints of molestation, and suggest that a panel of experts - setup by the judiciary - examine the charges, before the police take any action.
"A panel of experts examines the complaint first in any case of medical negligence. However no such provision exists exists under Section 354 (which deals with charges of outraging the modesty of a woman) and the police often do whatever they want," explained Dr Shantanu Sen, president of the West Bengal chapter of the Indian Medical Association which organised the protest today.
Some doctors are already worried about physically examining patients.
"After this incident, male doctors will hesitate to examine women patients, and will instead rely on medical tests for diagnosis. It will hurt the patient, and it will cost them more," said Dr Partha Bhattacharya who started an online petition demanding a change in the law.
The septuagenarian doctor was granted bail on Tuesday by the Calcutta High Court.