- In the case of Dr P. Basumani V. The Tamil Nadu Medical Council, The Madras High Court revoked an order passed by the Tamil Nadu Medical Council (TNMC) suspending a gastroenterologist by stating that natural justice was taken in confidence.
- The Madras High Court also laid down some guidelines to be included in the new Regulations framed under the National Medical Council Act, 2019.
- The Court also stated that a medical practitioner must take the highest degree of protection and care in the interest of society. However, at the same time, the services of the medical practitioner must be equally acknowledged.
- The new Regulations mentioned in the NMC Act would cater to the effective handling of the complaints against medical practitioners.
- A single Judge Bench of Justice R. Mahadevan of the High Court gave this landmark judgement stating that medical practitioners must be protected from the onslaught of frivolous complaints.
- In this case, the petitioner treated a patient in a private hospital in Chennai from September 27, 2015, until the patient's death on October 15, 2015. Following the patient's death, the patient's daughter filed a complaint in the Medical Council of India. She accused a doctor named Radhakrishnan based in Coimbatore of issuing a fake fitness certificate of her father when he was admitted to the hospital.
- The daughter had alleged that her father's immovable property, which was worth Rs.50 crores, had been transferred by Dr Radhakrishnan in his name, who was the son-in-law of the patient based on those false fitness certificates.
- The daughter of the patient also lodged a police complaint. The hospital's Medical Superintendent had informed the police authorities that the patient was conscious on October 8, 2015.
- The TNMC conducted an enquiry, and the petitioner gave a written formal statement saying that the patient was not conscious on October 8, 2015, and was not in a condition to understand the legal document.
- Based on that formal written statement, the TNMC removed the doctor's name from the medical register on the grounds that he had committed medical misconduct by furnishing a fake fitness certificate of the patient and giving it to the police authority.
- The Bench of Justice Mahadeva observed that it was wrong of the TNMC to take disciplinary action against the medical practitioner as there was no reason for them to do so. The Court also stated that the enquiry conducted by the disciplinary committee was not against the petitioner. He was summoned only to provide material evidence.
- The Court also observed that the petitioner was not allowed to be heard. He was not given a chance to cross-examine the witness whose statement was used and was not allowed to be defended before the committee.
- The Court also stated that the petitioner was not aware of the contents of the letter addressed to the Medical Superintendent and for that matter, including the reply given by the same.
- The Court also said that the no records of the joint decision or instruction from the petitioner to the Medical Superintendent to issue a letter that contradicted the medical records of the patient to the police authorities.
- The Bench observed an essential aspect of the case: there was a violation of natural justice against the medical practitioner, which caused him a serious loss. This, stating that that act of the disciplinary committee was quasi-judicial and the punishment was not justified. The act of "fairness" was removed and the act of "arbitrariness" was welcomed.
- The Court ordered for guidelines which the TNMC was to refer to as a Standing Operative Procedure (SOP) to handle complaints and grievances effectively and at the same time to avoid unnecessary allegations against medical practitioners.
- The Bench hence revoked the order passed by the TNMC on March 4, 2021, suspending a gastroenterologist without allowing him to be heard and thus denying the principles of natural justice to him.
What is the importance of the principle of natural justice in law?
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