BANGALORE: The High Court on Wednesday lambasted the state government for not invoking the Essential Maintenance Act, 1968 (ESMA), to ban the strike called by the Karnataka Sate Government Medical Officers’ Association and restoring medical services.
A division bench headed by Justice K L Manjunath came down heavily on the government for not initiating action against the doctors who went on strike on October 27.
Justice Manjunath observed that there is a court direction that government doctors cannot go on strike. “If they had gone on a strike, the state can take action against them under ESMA. But why did the state not initiate any action?” the judge asked.
The bench issued a notice to the state government and the Health Department, the president of Karnataka State Government Medical Officers’ Association and the Medical Council of India and directed them to file objections.
N P Amruthesh, an advocate, had filed a public interest petition challenging the “inaction of the state government” on the protest by doctors.
The bench also observed that the doctors had warned the government that they would go on strike a month ago and it could have taken steps to solve their problems. However, the state ignored their call and as a result, the poor people suffered, the bench observed.
“This is the third time that government doctors went on protest. Who would be responsible if lives were lost? Did the government make any alternative facilities in the hospitals when the doctors went on strike?” the bench questioned.
The bench directed the president of the Karnataka Sate Government Medical Officers’ Association to appear before it on Thursday and adjourned the case.
‘Several Patients Suffered’
Earlier during the hearing, Amruthesh submitted that due to the protest, patients in government hospitals all over the state were put through hardship. The patients who come to government hospitals are poor who cannot afford treatment in private hospitals, he said.
He sought directions to the government make necessary efforts to restore medical services across the state. Later in the day, the government intervened and the doctors called off the strike.