Maharashtra Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan on Wednesday said that protesting doctors had agreed to resume work at hospitals by 8 pm after their meeting in Mumbai. “We assured doctors that we will take strong measures for their safety within 15 days,” he told ANI after the meeting.

However, the Indian Medical Association refuted Mahajan’s statement as “absolutely false and misguiding”. “Doctors have not taken their strike back. We are supporting protest completely,” IMA’s Dr Parthiv Sanghvi told the news agency.

At least 1,200 junior doctors, who were on “mass leave” for the third consecutive day in protest against attacks on them by patients’ families, were issued show-case notices earlier in the day by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Mahajan had threatened the protesting doctors with six months’ expulsion if they did not resume work by tonight.

On the same day, the Bombay High Court postponed the hearings for the pleas filed by the protesting doctors till Thursday. The bench on Tuesday had asked the doctors to end their agitation immediately. The court had also asked the administration to take strict steps against the doctors if they did not resume work. Notices were served to at least 500 resident doctors from KEM Hospital and 350 each from Sion Hospital and JJ Hospital, an unidentified official told Hindustan Times.

“The civic body and the state government should also be held responsible for contempt of court as they failed to provide adequate security measures despite court orders,” a senior doctor told Hindustan Times. “We have not supported the mass bunk, but if doctors are collectively deciding to not resume work until they feel safe, it’s not unjustifiable.”

More than 4,000 resident doctors across the state went on “mass leave” on Monday. The protests started after two new cases were reported from Wadia Maternity Hospital in Parel, Mumbai, and Aurangabad, where doctors were assaulted by the relatives of some patients.

“As many as 45 cases have been registered in the last three years under the Doctors’ Protection Act,” Dr Yash Kabra, president of the Central Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors told The Indian Express. “So far, not one case has reached the stage of conviction.” The Act stipulates a prison term of three years for those found guilty. However, the protestors feel that it will not deter people from attacking doctors unless the Act is made more stringent with imprisonment of at least seven years.