Murder Of Lady Doctor: Complete Failure Of Policing, Says Kerala HC While Directing Appearance Of State Police Chief In Special Hearing
The Kerala High Court, in a special sitting held today, directed that the State Police Chief should appear before it tomorrow at 10.15 am and submit a report regarding the murder of a young house surgeon in a government hospital in the state.
The Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Kauser Edappagath also ordered that CCTV visuals of rooms or places of occurrence of the incident that led to the death of the young doctor be preserved and that superintendent of the hospital will be held responsible if found otherwise.
The Bench has also directed that a Judicial Magistrate should conduct a physical inspection of the hospital and report by tomorrow. The Court ordered that every order passed in the case, as also the provision of the statute to protect Doctors shall apply to every intern, house surgeon, postgraduate student and every other person involved in health science education and that orders should be implemented qua that section also.
"The worst has happened. Has this happened anywhere else? Are we the first in this also?", Justice Devan Ramachandran asked Senior Government Pleader (GP) Kannan who represented the state government.
Narrating the incident, the Senior GP said that police got a call at 1.05 am saying that the accused was being attacked and needed protection. He said that the accused is a teacher who was found with wounds, surrounded by relatives. He was taken in a Police jeep since he was reluctant to get into an ambulance.
He said that the accused was first taken to the dressing room and he first attacked his own relative, then the attendant and three Police officers. He said that the ambulance driver pushed him down and that the young doctor was stunned after seeing all this. He said that the murder happened in another room.
When he came out of the room, you could have stopped him, said the Judge when the GP replied that the policemen were also stabbed and are admitted in hospital.
"He did not show signs of violence on the way and it happened all of a sudden. We share grief", said the GP.
"What is the point of grief? If you can't protect Doctors, shut down hospitals", Justice Ramachandran said.
The Judge also said that if the accused refused to get into an ambulance, he was abnormal. "We are not jumping into conclusions. We told you that things like this will happen", Justice Ramachandran said.
"We took all possible steps. No excuses. Our steps may kindly be looked at", the GP said.
When the GP said that the Doctor was standing outside the dressing room, the Court said, "We believe otherwise, you can take instructions".
The Court said that the Police should be able to anticipate. "We are looking at the death of a young girl, a student. Look at the loss to the family, for what? All because she tried to be a good doctor and treat the patient", Justice Ramachandran said.
"You should have anticipated. You should be taking steps which are foolproof", the Judge added and the GP responded, "As far as this incident is concerned, our steps were foolproof".
The Court noted that there were no Police inside the room and that the accused should have been restrained, considering his behaviour.
The GP then pointed out that there is a government order relating to presenting the accused before doctors and said that all steps were taken.
"How do you say that when someone was killed? A young doctor was killed", Justice Ramachandran said. "Did the police not have a gun?", asked Justice Kauser Edappagath.
"You could not protect her. What kind of policing is this?", asked Justice Ramachandran.
Justice Edappagath then said that there was sufficient time for police as others were sabbed first. "That is why guns were given to Police", the Judge remarked.
Ladies and children should have been protected. That is the true purport of the duty of the Police. Soldiers protect with their life, Justice Ramachandran said.
The GP then said that further attempts were prevented by the Police. "What are you saying? What more can happen, this is a complete failure", Justice Ramachandran said.
The Court then asked what is the protocol in presenting an accused before a Magistrate. "What if a Magistrate is attacked? What is the protocol? There are hundreds of accused presented even in their houses", the Court said.
"Why is that protocol not being followed in the cases of Doctors? Are Doctors not important?", asked Justice Ramachandran.
"The Government Order which says the Doctor should be left with the accused, that is a remedy for disaster. It is meant for the Doctor to probe about custodial torture etc. that is not meant to leave the accused alone with the Doctor", Justice Ramachandran said.
The Court then asked the status of the proposed amendment to the statute for the protection of Doctors. It is being considered, replied the GP.
"That is the problem. How many months will you take? Our hopes have been dashed. We are terribly worried and we are not keeping our words to ourselves", Justice Ramachandran said.
"Any life is precious, more in the case of a student. Single child. How do we face the parents? She is killed in a government hospital. Who is responsible?", the Judge said.
A surgical knife was used. The girl fell down and he was sitting on her body and stabbing her, Advocate P. Sreekumar appearing for the Kerala University of Health Sciences submitted.
"What is that you want? This is your hospital. Tell us what you propose to do. Tell us what the police propose to do. Where is the state police chief? Is he a respondent? We have to make sure that it does not happen again", Justice Ramachandran told the GP.
Police officers abroad have stun guns and teasers. We have only lathis. The man was able to injure three of four persons and kill a person, the Court said, adding that it wants the same protocol for Doctors that are followed for Magistrates.
If you want to leave the patient with a Doctor, there should be precautions. He must be in harness unless the Doctor in writing says otherwise, the Court remarked.
The Court said that Police are trained to deal with such situations and that "the system is only as good as the persons who man it".
Senior Advocate Gopakumaran Nair appearing for the Indian Medical Association submitted that this is a case of failure of the Police. Policing involves anticipating crimes. He said that the Police ran away from the scene, leaving the girl at the mercy of the criminal. He said that the Police should have anticipated crime. "If this is not failure of policing, what else is?", he asked.
"Our entire organisation is shocked. We are unable to control the sentiments of our members. The poor girl was stabbed successively. The Police were watching. There is no justification for such conduct", the Senior Counsel submitted.
The Court said that it should be the first and foremost responsibility of the Police to ensure that there is no violation of the law when such a person is brought before the Doctors. How will young girls work as house surgeons at night? Will parents send their children? There is already a fear psychosis. For once, we can't blame the Doctors for striking. If one patient today does not get treatment, is it not disruption? If a patient dies today, who will be responsible? Will you blame the Doctors' actions? It was your responsibility to make sure that this does not happen. Did you not fail this girl? If it was beyond your control, we would have blamed you, the Bench said.
"He was not an accused. We only tried to get him treatment", the GP said. "Police should have been vigilant. They should have watched each movement", the Court responded.
The GP said that the accused showed no signs of violence. "He was in someone else's house, surrounded by relatives, there was some issue. You took it casually", Justice Justice Kauser Edappagath said.
"We are not saying something was done deliberately. You took it very casually", Justice Ramachandran added.
The Government should now act. The State Police Chief must submit a report tomorrow. We want a report tomorrow morning. We want the State Police Chief to appear online, Justice Ramachandran said.
"If this has happened to Doctors, this can happen to Magistrates, to lawyers and judges. There must be a protocol", Justice Ramachandran said.
Let him burn his midnight oil today. We want a report tomorrow. You have lost the privilege. Now you work as per our schedule, the Court said about the State Police Chief appearing before the Court tomorrow.
There is discontent brewing among the student community, that is why we are before your lordships. If we don’t intervene, the health system will be in crisis, submitted Advocate P. Sreekumar.
The Court observed that the facts prima facie establish a complete breakdown of the system to protect the Doctor. It happened in a Government hospital and it was the duty of the Police to ensure that doctors and others are protected, the Court said.
The Court noted in its order that no tangible results were brought to its notice about the amendment to the statute for the protection of Doctors.