Bangalore: The High Court on Wednesday rapped the State government for not invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to prevent doctors’ from going on strike.
A division bench comprising Justice K L Manjunath and Justice Ravi Malimath took the government to task for failing to implement two previous orders of the High Court on the same issue.
The High Court had passed two orders, in 2005 and 2009, categorically stating that doctors cannot go on strike and issued direction to the State government to invoke Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against such doctors.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by advocate Amrutesh N P. “The government was aware of the two directions issued earlier but did not implement them. Despite knowing about the strike at least a month ago, you (government) did nothing to prevent the strike. They (doctors) have done this drama twice earlier. What kind of a government is this?” the bench observed.
When the counsel for the government submitted that health services were not affected and no death occurred during the strike, the petitioner alleged that two people died as doctors were absent from work.
“We are not concerned about their (doctors) demands. If the demands are unreasonable you should have made alternative arrangements. You should have enforced ESMA. The doctors cannot go on strike. Why shouldn’t contempt proceedings be initiated against you (government) for not implementing orders?” the bench asked.
The counsel for the government said that a detailed report on measures taken during the crisis will be submitted before the court.
The court directed that the report be submitted on Thursday and also issued notice to the President of the Karnataka Government Medical Officers’ Association President Dr H N Ravindra, asking him to to appear during the hearing.
The petitioner contended that the strike and resignation en masse by the association members was against medical ethics and the oath. The petitioner stated that any denial of right to medical assistance to its citizens is in violation of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
In 2008, doctors went on strike between November 10 and 13 in violation of Rule 106 (b) (1) and (2) of Karnataka Civil Services Rules. Two public interest litigations (PIL) were filed and a division bench headed by the then Chief Justice had directed the association not to resort to strike in future. It had also asked the State government to proceed against the doctors strictly by invoking ESMA.