Srinagar: As Health and Medical Education Department has issued circular banning doctors from taking gifts and freebies from pharmaceutical companies, the J&K High Court has directed its Secretary to ‘locate’ statutory provisions under which it has passed the circular, so that disciplinary proceedings are initiated against the erring medicos.
As hearing in a Public Interest Litigation seeking an end to gift taking menace by doctors began before a Division Bench of Justices Hasnain Massodi and Dhiraj Singh Thakur, senior Additional Advocate General J A Kawoosa informed the court that ‘statement of facts’ about court’s December 23, 2013 order—restraining doctors from accepting any kind of gifts from pharmaceutical companies—has been filed.
In this regard, Kawoosa said the Secretary H&ME Department has issued circular (n0.14-HME of 2014) on January 23 last, prohibiting doctors practicing in the field of medicine from receiving freebies or gifts from the companies.
While the bench observed that the circular does not indicate any statutory provision under which it has been issued, Kawoosa insisted that it has been done in compliance of order by the court on December 23 last year.
“A closer look on the (December 23) order would reveal that no direction has been issued to the respondents, requiring them to issue a circular,” the bench said.
“In the said background, it would be appropriate to direct the Secretary (H&ME) to locate statutory provisions under which circular has been issued, so that the circular has a binding effect and any violation constitutes misconduct and disciplinary proceedings are initiated against the erring doctors.”
As per the circular, the Secretary has directed all the Heads of the Departments working under its administrative control to comply with the December 23 directions from the High Court.
“It has come to the notice of the (H&ME) Department that some doctors are receiving cash and gifts/freebies for prescribing medicine of particular companies including unrecognized companies. The matter has been viewed seriously by the High Court,” the Secretary has emphasized while issuing the circular.
On December 23 last year, the division bench besides restraining doctors had also asked all the pharmaceutical companies to restrain themselves from giving gifts of any kind to doctors. The bench had also directed the pharmaceutical companies not to arrange tours for doctors within India or abroad.
“The doctors shall attend research conferences only after it is certified by the Head of the Department that it is in the interest of patient care and the HODs concerned will be at liberty to authorise the doctors to attend the literary seminars after it is certified that the same is in the interests of public,” the court had said.
Meanwhile, the bench also directed respondents including Chief Secretary, Commissioner Health and Medical Education, Director Health, and Principals of Government Medical College Srinagar/Jammu to file statement, indicating participation of the doctors from the state in conferences workshops and seminars within or outside India after the December 23 direction.
The statement, court said, shall give details where formal permission was granted by the government.
“This will enable the bench to pass further directions in the matter,” the court added, observing that a blanket ban on doctors to participate in conferences, workshops, seminars would be counterproductive, adversely affecting the doctors who are keen to participate in such conferences and workshops to enhance their knowledge and profession skills.
Meanwhile, as per the ‘statement of facts’, government has already instituted an enquiry against the doctors alleged in the PIL to have received cash and gifts from pharmaceutical companies in lieu of prescribing their medicine, some “unnecessarily”.
The petitioners, Naseer Ahmad Shah, Lateef Panjabi and Imtiyaz Ahmad Shah—all residents of Srinagar, have named a few doctors in their petition, claiming that they have proof against them for taking gifts and cash for prescribing medicine of a particular company.
In the statement of facts, the government has said that it was inquiring into the allegations against doctors including Firdous Ahmad Vaid (Medical Officer Yaripora), Fayaz Ahmad Peerzada (incharge CMO Budgam), Abdul Ahad Wani (Consultant medicine, Baramulla) and Javaid Ahmad Zargar (Medical Officer Chadoora). The PIL has been posted by the bench for further consideration in May.