The Kerala High Court while directing the State observed that every incident of attack on a Doctor or a Healthcare Professional including any other staff of the hospital has to be taken cognizance of by the Police not later than one hour from the time when such an incident is reported. The Court was dealing with a matter pertaining to recurring instances of violence against medical professionals.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Kauser Edappagath directed –

"… we are of the firm view that every incident of attack on a Doctor or a Healthcare Professional, including any other staff of the Hospital - be that Security or other - will have to be taken cognizance of by the Station House Officer of the concerned Police Station not later than one hour from the time on which it is reported to him. This can be under the Special Law applicable, or under the Indian Penal Code; but an FIR will be need to be registered within the afore time frame, which alone will ensure that the perpetrator/s understands that action is swift and quick."

The Bench noted that it is considering such matters nearly after six months and was under the impression that perhaps, things would have been better.

The Court further ordered, "… every Station House Officer concerned, to whom, or to whose Station, a complaint of atrocity or attack or harm on any Healthcare Professional – be that Doctors, Nurses, staffs, security or such other, or against the property of a Hospital- shall be recorded as a first information and a case registered within a period of one hour from the time on which such information is obtained or gathered."

It was informed by Senior Advocate S. Gopakumaran Nair appearing for the medical professionals to the Court that for about a 12-month period from June 2021, the number of attacks recorded is in excess of 138 or so. That means, there are at least 10 or 12 attacks every month. The Court was concerned because it has been issuing orders in the past under the hope that the official system would function faultlessly and that the citizens would also be aware of the imperative requirement to treat the Healthcare system with the respect it deserves.

The Court observed, "Experience has shown us that citizens are not fearful of law, but of apprehension in case of misconduct or infraction. We are hence guided to believe, prima facie, that it is perhaps because citizens get the impression that the processes of law are slow and that they would not be taken to task, that such recurrent occurrences happen."

The Court further observed that unless the doctors or medical professionals can act in peace, it would be impossible for the system to sustain itself. Hence, the Court directed that all the stakeholders including the Government shall inform about the steps been or must be taken to ensure peace.

The Court, at last, concluded, "As far as the Government of Kerala is concerned, we request them to ensure that the citizens are told, by appropriate methods, the gravity of the offence of an attack on a Hospital or a Healthcare Personnel; and the manner in which this Court proposes to deal with it in future."

Accordingly, the High Court has adjourned the matters to be called on December 16, 2022.

Cause Title - Kerala Private Hospitals Association v. Adv.Sabu P. Joseph

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