09 January, 2016

NHRC panel pulls up state for not providing opinion on time for police to file FIR; 166 cases are pending.

The inertia of a government-appointed panel in processing complaints in medico legal cases came in for criticism on Friday when a bench of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was apprised of the pendency. A total of 271 complaints of medical negligence cases have been filed at various police stations in the city in the past five years; while the government-appointed of panel of doctors has given its opinion in 105 cases, its nod is awaited in 166 cases before the police can proceed. 

As per a government resolution which was passed in 2005 after the Supreme Court gave a landmark judgement in the Jacob Mathew vs State of Punjab case, the government-appointed panel of doctors should give its opinion within seven days and the police can register an FIR against the doctor concerned only after that. 

JJ Hospital is the nodal body for medico legal cases registered in Mumbai and Thane and the police refers 50-60 cases of medical negligence to it every year for opinion. 

When a report by Jan Arogya Abhiyan, an NGO, was tabled during a hearing on the pendency of medical negligence cases, the bench of NHRC was appalled and aghast. 

The bench comprises acting chairman of NHRC, Justice Cyriac Joseph, and Maharashtra Human Rights Commission chairperson SR Bannurmath. The bench pulled up the state and asked it to look into the issue of pendency and the reasons behind why so many cases had piled up. 

Justice Joseph said that due to pending opinion of the government panel, justice in medical negligence cases was getting delayed. 

Abhijit More, co-convenor of Jan Arogya Abhiyan, alleged that some cases had been pending for as long as three years. "There are cases in which the patient died after being administered the wrong injection, or of a botched-up surgery. While relatives of the victims still await justice, the delay in the opinion by the panel gives errant doctors enough time to fabricate the papers," he said. 

Dr TP Lahane, Dean of JJ Hospital, said that the cases were pending due to lack of medical papers provided by the respective police station. He added that of the 166 pending cases, only 26 pertain to 2014 and the rest are cases from last year. 

"Giving opinion on medical negligence cases is a tough task. We have to see each and every medical paper, the line of treatment etc. After all, the FIR is registered on the basis of our opinion," Lahane said. 

Mirajuddin Qureishi is one such patient who is awaiting justice. He had rushed his three-and-a-half-year-old boy Abusufiyan to the BMC-run KEM hospital in a serious condition three months ago. While the doctors diagnosed the boy with dengue, the family alleged that the doctors did not do enough even as the boy's condition deteriorated and he died. The Bhoiwada police registered a case and sent the report to JJ for its opinion. Further action in the case is pending as JJ has not yet given its opinion.