It is most heartening and most refreshing to learn that the Tripura High Court just recently on July 30, 2020 in a notable judgment titled Karnajit De vs. The State of Tripura in AB 87/2020 made no bones in making an important observation in simple and straight language that, “Doctors are the first line defence of the country in the fight against the corona virus”. It directed the Government to restore the confidence of the Doctors and para-medical staff and all concerned who are sacrificing their lives to fight against the pandemic. Very rightly so!
To be sure, Justice Arindam Lodh of Tripura High Court made this important observation while considering an anticipatory bail plea filed by a person accused of being part of a protest by a group of patients against a doctor. The Judge directed the Investigating Officer to record statement of the doctor and to conduct a Test Identification Parade. Karnajit De who is Additional Government Advocate under the Government of Tripura was charged under Section 323/353/506/34 IPC and Section 3(2) (i) of Epidemic Diseases Amendment Act, 2000 read with Section 3 of the Tripura Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institution (Prevention of Violence & Damage Property) Act, 2013 for allegedly harassing a woman doctor.
To start with, Justice Arindam Lodh sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in the opening para that, “Heard Mr. R. Datta, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner as well as Mr. Samrat Ghosh, learned Addl. PP appearing for the State-respondent through video conferencing.” It is then observed that, “Mr. R. Datta, learned counsel appearing for the petitioner, Sri Karnajit De who has approached this Court with an application under Section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for granting anticipatory bail to him in connection with NCC Police Station Case No. 2020 NCC 106 under Section 323/353/506/34 IPC and Section 3(2)(i) of Epidemic Diseases Amendment Act, 2020 read with Section 3 of the Tripura Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institution (Prevention of Violence & Damage Property) Act, 2013.”
While elaborating in detail, it is then pointed out that, “Mr. Datta, learned counsel for the petitioner has drawn my attention at the complaint lodged by the Director of Health Services, Government of Tripura, stating inter alia that one Dr. Sangita Chakraborty, who was serving as District Health Officer, West Tripura, and was discharging her duties as incharge of distribution of COVID-19 patients in the two centres on 24.07.2020, Saturday, at around 7.00 P.M. five post delivery mothers along with their new born babies, who were tested COVID-19 positive, were sent to the Bhagat Singh CO)VID Care Centre, soon after their deliveries to ensure maximum safety and much needed seclusion for the mother and the new born babies under the strict surveillance of Dr. Sangita Chakraborty. It is further stated that when the said patients and the accompanying health staffs reached near B Block of the said centre, some of the previously admitted older inmate patients started protesting indiscriminately demanding that they would not allow entry of any new patients in the centre. It is further stated in the complaint that when the situation had worsened, Dr. Chakraborty realizing the seriousness of the developments, immediately reached the place of occurrence and maintaining the desired composure form of a public servant, tried to convince the unruly protestors and repeatedly insisted to behave responsibly. However, the protestors furiously reciprocated and started abusing Dr. Chakraborty in utterly filthy languages and also threw some sexually coloured remarks. They even went further and started jointly spitting on the face of Dr. Sangita Chakraborty and one of them climbed upstairs from where he took some water in his mouth and showered gargled water upon Dr. Chakraborty, who was then somehow saved by the timely interference of her staff but not before receiving some minor injuries. Some of the protestors even went further and threatened her and her family with dire consequences once they are out of their quarantine, which has left the esteemed doctor and her family in a state of terror and helplessness.”
Most significantly, it is then rightly made clear in no unambiguous terms that, “Needless to say, Doctors are in the frontline of the battle against Coronavirus pandemic, which has now affected lakhs of people and claimed many lives in the country with further reports that para-medical staff and Doctors getting affected by COVID, the focus has now shifted to those brave souls. Our law makers in their own wisdom and after well thought consideration have described the Doctor, para-medical staff, their associates and the police forces as the frontline warriors for their sincere and devoted dedication and constant fight against the deadly disease engulfed in the entire country. Further, they are the “first line defence of the country” in the fight against Coronavirus. It is even reported that many Doctors and nurses have been complaining of fatigue, dehydration and headache due to grueling schedule as they are to work non-stop for seven to eight hours in one go, without any break. They have always taken all kinds of risk not only on their own shoulders but also upon their family members and even to their kids and their old aged parents.”
Equally significant if not more is what is then stated now that, “Coming to the present case, the Director of Health Services, Government of Tripura had lodged a serious complaint against some of the patients, who not only had made the Doctors and other staff vulnerable to the infection which will deprive many patients from their valuable service. They created serious obstacles in treating the COVID patients, who are the mothers of the new born babies and suffering from COVID infections and thus prevented the lady Doctor and her staffs to discharge their official duties smoothly and freely. In my opinion, this kind of acts and commission are not only detrimental to the sentiment, safety and security of the Doctors, the “frontline warriors” of the nation, but also detrimental to the interest of the entire society of our nation as well as of this state. It is not at all tolerable and should not be tolerated for a single moment, and the real offenders are to be booked and punished in accordance with law.”
As it turned out, it is then further held that, “I have given my anxious thought to the submission of Mr. Datta, learned counsel that the petitioner in this petition is an advocate and holding the post of Addl. Government Advocate. According to me, the petitioner being an Advocate is engaged and associated with a Noble profession, and, who, as a representative of the law makers of the State, should be more responsible and dutiful towards the cause of the Doctor and society as a whole. His acts and commissions shall be the example to others. Till now, this Court does not find any specific accusation against the petitioner. However, both the learned counsel appearing for the parties to the lis have apprehended his implication in connection with the offence.”
Furthermore, it is then also held that, “Keeping in view the object of bringing the Ordinance 2020 and the seriousness of the complaint as lodged by the Director of Health Services, Government of Tripura, I direct the Investigating Officer to record confessional statement of the victim Dr. Sangita Chakraborty and her supporting staff under Section 164(5) of the Cr.P.C. within 24 hours, however, at the convenience of the said Doctor and her other associates. The Investigating Officer is further directed to arrange for T.I. parade, if necessary, to identify the real offenders. Learned Addl. P.P. is requested to produce the case diary on 05.08.2020 to find out the reasonable apprehension and accusation, if any, against the petitioner.”
To put things in perspective, it is then also directed that, “A copy of this order may be communicated to the Superintendent of Police, West Tripura, Agartala for compliance of the order forthwith. A copy may also be forwarded to the learned counsel of the petitioner and learned Addl. P.P. for immediate forwarding the copy of the order to the investigating officer to act in terms of the above order.”
To put it succinctly, it is then also clarified that, “In the meantime, the police authorities are given liberty to proceed in accordance with law to protect and restore the confidence of the Doctors and para-medical staff and all concerned who are sacrificing their lives to fight against the dreaded Coronavirus.”
Finally, it is then held that, “List the matter on 05.08.2020. A copy of this order may also be supplied to the learned counsel for the parties through e-mail or Whatsapp duly authenticated by the Registrar (Judicial) which shall serve all practical purposes.”
In essence, this extremely laudable, landmark and latest judgment minces no words to highlight the pivotal role played by doctor in society by terming them as “frontline warriors against coronavirus”. It also very rightly labels the doctors as “first line defence of the country”. It also very rightly advocates that there has to be zero tolerance of any kind of violence against doctors! This is what makes this judgment all so special!
Needless to say, it is the bounden duty of all the governments in our country – by the States and also by the Centre to ensure that doctors are always protected from violence of any kind in any form and those who try to perpetrate violence are promptly identified and strictly punished in accordance with law! Lawyers too must always adore, admire and appreciate the pivotal role played by doctors in society which mostly they do also! No denying it!