The Calcutta High Court on Friday refused to pass any interim order on the ongoing strike by junior doctors in West Bengal to protest against the assault on their colleagues, PTI reported.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice Suvra Ghosh asked the Mamata Banerjee-led government to persuade the doctors on strike to resume work and provide services to patients. The bench also asked the state government about the steps taken by them after the family of a patient allegedly attacked two interns at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata on Monday night.
The High Court was hearing a a Public Interest Litigation seeking to declare the strike illegal. The chief justice also reminded the protestors of the “Hippocratic Oath” they took to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability.
The court fixed June 21 as the next date of hearing of the petition.
Doctors in several other cities across the country also joined the protest to show solidarity with their counterparts in West Bengal, who had stopped work on Tuesday.
Union health minister’s appeal to Mamata Banerjee
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also urged the doctors to exercise restraint and asked them to continue to serve patients on Friday. He appealed to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to not make a sensitive matter one of “prestige issue”.
“It is a matter of concern that the agitation by doctors in Bengal is not heading towards resolution, but seems to be getting aggravated,” Vardhan wrote in a letter to Banerjee.
“It is our duty to provide good working conditions and a secure environment to them[doctors],” he added. “Strong action against any person who assaults them must be ensured by the law enforcement agencies.”
Vardhan urged the chief minister to personally intervene to resolve the impasse, as the whole country was being affected by the developments in West Bengal.
Earlier in the day, Vardhan had criticised Banerjee for threatening the doctors with an ultimatum. “Despite getting beaten so badly, doctors have only asked her [Mamata Banerjee] to provide them with adequate security...And also demanded action against the perpetrators of the violence as per the law,” he said.
“So if the chief minister acts in a sensitive manner in such a grave scenario, patients across the country will not suffer,” he added.
He assured the doctors that the government is committed to ensure their safety and urged them to hold only symbolic protests so that the health services are not disrupted.
Members of the AIIMS Resident Doctors Association also met Vardhan on Friday and told him about the medical fraternity’s demand of ensuring safety and security of doctors in face of any violence in hospital premises. They sought immediate security and intervention by the Centre to stop the “politically motivated atrocity” on the protesting doctors in West Bengal.
Their other demands include: recruitment of both “armed and unarmed trained competent security guards” at all government hospitals, increasing security staff at hostels, CCTV vigilance in hospitals mandatory along with implementation of a hotline alarm system.
The Union minister has assured the doctors that he will look into their demands.
On Thursday, the agitating doctors defied Banerjee’s ultimatum to return to work by 2 pm. Banerjee directed the doctors to get back to work, threatening to take action if her order was not followed. “Outsiders [are] disrupting services at medical colleges and hospitals,” she had said. Banerjee also said that medical students who do not get back to work should leave the hostels. She also asked the police to ensure that only patients get to stay in hospital premises, calling the agitation of junior doctors a conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist).